Minister upbeat after trade indaba

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

Trade and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa has hailed the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 December.

The conference culminated in the adoption of the ‘Nairobi Package’—a series of six Ministerial Decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to least-developed countries (LDCs) as well as multilateral trade.

The multilateral trading system allows countries to organise themselves into regional trading blocs and offer concessions amongst each other for as long as trade is not more restrictive to non-members after the formation of the arrangement.

Mr Setipa was chairing agricultural negotiations at the conference, and said he was happy with the outcome not just of the discussions but the entire conference.

“We reached a deal on rules of origin, which means it will now be easier for Lesotho to access markets in countries that have already awarded concession, in the form of duty-free and quota-free, to least-developed countries,” the minister said.

On agriculture, Mr Setipa said local farmers would no longer contend with those from countries whose products are subsidized by the government.

“The multilateral trading system is of utmost importance to small countries such as Lesotho,” said Mr Setipa, adding the development fulfilled a dream Lesotho had been chasing since the inception of the WTO in 1995.

The WTO regulates trade between participating countries, provides a framework for negotiating trade agreements, and a dispute-resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to its agreements.

Mr Setipa said Lesotho joined the WTO hoping the multilateral trading system would boost the country’s nascent economy.

The minister said trust was of utmost importance between trading partners as well as being accountable for commitments the countries make.

“Turning away from our obligations will certainly cast doubt over the seriousness of any new commitment by members,” said Mr Setipa.

The minister was also particularly happy with what least-developed countries like Lesotho would benefit.

“It is in this spirit that I wish to announce that Lesotho has deposited her instrument of acceptance with respect to the Trade Facilitation Agreement.”

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