Dti meets social partners ahead of WTO meeting

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has met with his department’s social partners in preparation for the World Trade Organisation’s 11th Ministerial Conference that will take place in December.

Minister Davies’s meeting with the National Consultative Forum on Tuesday provided an opportunity for the exchange of views between government, labour and business on the possible outcomes in preparation for the upcoming Ministerial Conference (MC11). 

The conference, which will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the highest decision making body in the WTO and will be attended by 164 countries, which are members of the WTO.

Minister Davies said MC11 will be held at a time of increasing backlash against multilateralism and trade liberalisation due to the lack of inclusive growth.

“There is a need to define a new form of ‘inclusive multilateralism’. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in its 2017 Trade and Development Report, calls for a global new deal to enhance growth and development,” said Minister Davies.

The Minister said South Africa’s priorities are aligned to those of the African Group and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group.

The key priority is to conclude the outstanding work of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), including in agriculture to address the trade distorting domestic support subsidies being provided by mainly developed countries.

Minister Davies said there were many proposals on the different issues discussed at the WTO but there seems to be very little convergence.

“On the South African side, we are assessing each of the proposed issues to determine whether they can indeed be delivered, whether they meet South Africa’s most urgent developmental needs, and whether they involve demands that unacceptably limit our policy space.”  

The National Consultative Forum also provided an opportunity for government and labour to sign a pledge not to concede to become a party to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. 

Meanwhile, business undertook to sign the pledge once the necessary approval has been obtained.

The pledge is an outcome of the annual National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) Trade and Industry Chamber’s strategic session with the Minister that was held on 22 September.

Agreement on Government Procurement

In the session, a resolution was taken by NEDLAC Constituencies, which include organised labour (Congress of South African Trade Unions), organised business (Business Unity South Africa) and government (the Department of Trade and Industry) not to concede and sign-off on the  “WTO Agreement on Government Procurement”.

The Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) is a plurilateral agreement within the framework of the WTO, meaning that not all WTO members are party to the agreement.

Currently, 47 of the 164 WTO members have signed the GPA. The fundamental aim of the GPA is to mutually open government procurement markets among its signatories.

The NEDLAC social partners are concerned that joining the GPA could be to erode policy space available to implement South Africa’s development and employment objectives by constraining local content requirements in government tenders that can be used as a policy tool to facilitate sustainable industrial development.

Local content requirements in government procurement are utilised as strategic levers to enhance domestic production capabilities. – SAnews.gov.za

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