Addis Ababa, 7 October 2020 (ECA) - The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) hosted the second of a series of five virtual expert group meetings on innovative research into preferential trade arrangements in Africa.
The study aims to develop guidelines on how to strengthen the capacity of the African private sector to better engage in the negotiation and implementation of preferential trade arrangements.
The virtual meeting brought together a small group of selected experts from academia, the private sector, regional economic communities and international organizations. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the main findings and recommendations of the study and to provide feedback to the authors based on best practices in the field.
Opening the meeting, David Luke, ATPC Coordinator, reminded the participants of an old saying in the field of trade negotiations – that “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” – and emphasised the need to ensure Africa’s negotiators are well-equipped with the right tools with which to extract the most out of negotiations towards preferential trade arrangements.
Jacob Kotcho, Head of Trade, Customs and Industry Unit at Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), in his opening remarks, highlighted the complex nature of trade negotiations and the consequent need for such studies that are intended to guide the negotiators in the process.
Presenting the main findings of the study, Guillaume Gerout, ATPC trade expert who led the preparation of the study, highlighted: a) the need for policymakers to develop negotiating positions through an inclusive and participatory process involving all stakeholders, b) the particular role of the private sector as direct beneficiaries or victims of the outcomes of such negotiations, and c) the unique role of civil society organisations in serving as a communication bridge between government and the wider society.
The expert group meeting welcomed the findings of the study and provided useful feedback, including on the need to expand the analysis to cover the pre- and post-negotiations stages given the critical importance of design, implementation and enforcement. Experts also stressed the particular importance of transparency in negotiations and the need to ensure full participation by MSMEs, the youth and women.
The study will incorporate the insightful comments by the experts, finalised over the next few months and translated into e-training courses for use in the public and private sectors in the Central African region.
The study reviewed at this expert group meeting is part of a broader project aimed at contributing to the enhancement of intra-African trade and Africa’s share in global trade through inclusive, sustainable and development-friendly trade reforms. Financially supported by the European Union, TradeCom II – ACP Trade Capacity Building Programme, ECA works in partnership with the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), the Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (trapca) and the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (tralac) on capacity building and training workshops.
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