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Kenya to focus on deepening regional integration amid WTO deadlock

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KENYA plans to focus on deepening regional integration following the deadlock on the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade negotiations, a government official said.

Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, said in a commentary published in the Star newspaper earlier this month that the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference held in December 2017 ended in a stalemate resulting in no key multi-lateral outcomes.

‘Given little progress being made at the multilateral trade engagements, Kenya will put more focus on deepening regional integration at the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Tripartite Free Trade Area bringing together EAC, COMESA and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA),’ Kiptoo said.

He said that the CFTA, for instance, will create a single market with the largest country membership in the world, within the fastest-growing region both in terms of population and consumption.

The WTO Ministerial Conferences are normally held at least once every two years with the objective to take decisions on all WTO work including on the current ongoing negotiations on various issues.

The previous WTO meeting was held in Nairobi in 2015 and ended with a decision to eliminate export subsidies in agriculture, decision on the implementation of the services waiver and the decision on market access for some cotton products.

Kiptoo said that the lack of agreement at the recently concluded WTO talks raised questions about the 23 years old trade body’s ability to govern the increasingly disputed global trade.

Kiptoo, who is also the Chairperson of the National Trade Negotiation Council, said that divergence could not be bridged during the December 2017 WTO talks due to the dynamics that have taken place in international trade since the beginning of the Doha round of trade negotiations in December 2001.

He noted that the international trade dynamics and changes in the global political economy have made some members to review their positions on many issues under the negotiations making it difficult to advance the talks under the initial architecture.

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