THE Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (Seatini) will provide a back-up group to the team negotiating at next week’s World Trade Organi
sation (WTO) fifth ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico.
Programme officer with the institute, Percy Makombe said the idea was borne out of the realisation that developing countries were lacking the expertise needed in negotiation.
“A back-up team will help negotiators in their works and there is software that has been developed whereby negotiators will have palm tops to communicate with the back-up team,” he said.
Makombe said during the last WTO meeting in Doha two years ago, developing countries did not have the technical expertise needed in negotiations.
Makombe said Seatini had met parliamentarians from Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda to map the way forward and work on final touches on the preparations.
The fifth ministerial meeting beginning on Wednesday is crucial for WTO members as they race against time to beat the January 2005 deadline set by trade ministers in Doha two years ago.
In Doha, trade ministers resolved to complete negotiations by January 2005.
The September 10-14 ministerial meeting follows the stalemate in previous meetings leading to the customary North-South political divide.
It promises fireworks following rejection of the WTO Agriculture Agreement in Geneva in January.
The Review Hearing focused on a draft text of Modalities on the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) issued by chief WTO agronomist, Stuart Harbinson.
Referred to as the Harbinson Draft, participants rejected it citing its inadequacy in addressing the concerns of developing nations on agricultural issues.
In a statement released at the end of the review hearing, participants said: “The draft text reveals the emptiness of the Doha Ministerial Declaration’s stated intention of placing development, food security and rural livelihoods at the heart of the Doha round.”
Established in 1995 as a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt), the WTO was mandated to, among other things, reduce tariffs and other barriers that inhibit fair trade practices.
However, it has come under severe criticism from developing countries for its double standards.
Trade ministers from the developing world have branded these informal meetings as a non-transparent and non-accountable system of decision-making.
This has contributed to the crisis of legitimacy of WTO.
Developing countries have hurled abuse at the WTO as a platform where real decisions are made in backrooms by informal caucuses whose members are not determined by formal rules and votes but by informal agreements among significant players, mainly the developed countries.
Decision-making processes in the negotiations, developing countries say, were flawed and characterised by manipulations by the powerful industrialised nations.
The Cancun meeting brings under scrutiny the effectiveness of regional blocs formed to combat the unfair practices in the negotiations.
Developing countries have argued that decisions were made by the industrialised nations who wield power.
As such, they have arranged themselves into blocs to carry one voice at the meeting.