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Opinions Fri, 15 Mar 2013

Alan Kyerematen: Bringing all actors in trade is key ..

... to breaking trade barriers

By Samuel Hinneh

In the coming months across the globe the issue on every negotiation table and among trade experts will be who succeeds the current Director General (DG) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The current DG of the WTO, Pascal Lamy will end his second term in August 2013. Nominations to find his replacement began in December last year.

There are nine candidates vying for leadership of this major global economic governance institution. Africa has two candidates, Mr Alan Kyerematen, former Trade Minister of Ghana, nominated by the African Union, and Kenya’s Ms Amina C. Mohamed. Candidates from Latin America are Mr Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo from Brazil, Ms Anabel González, from Coasta Rica and Mr Herminio Blanco from Mexico. Asia has Mr Ahmad Thougan Hindawi, Jordan, Maria Elka Pangestu, Indonesia, and Mr Taeho Bark, Republic of Korea, and from New Zealand is Tim Groser.

The nine candidates vying for the position of the DG of the organisation met in January 2013 with the Council of the WTO to make presentations on their visions for the organisation.

Trade is conducted within a broader community of different stakeholders. Therefore trade as it is practiced is not conducted in a vacuum, and therefore requires different actors or stakeholders to achieve the desired results. But over the years, the absence of stakeholders has become a barrier to trade especially for countries in the developing world.

Mr Alan Kyerematen considered one of the front-runners for the DG position by pundits says there is the need for the organisation to extend its reach to the business community and civil society.

He says it is important for the WTO to involve business community of the economy such as small scale and medium enterprises, civil society in trade negotiations.

Mr Kyerematen emphasised that the sector is well abreast with the appropriate measures of moving goods and services particularly from developing countries to other countries thereby saving costs.

The WTO being an inter-governmental organisation, Mr Kyerematen is of the view that the organisation has to find structured innovative ways of enhancing relationships with the private sector, by engaging the sector in conferences, forums, either on yearly or biennial basis.

The 16 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have endorsed the candidature of Alan Kyerematen. In Addition, the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, made up 80 countries is backing the Ghanaian.

During his time as Ghana’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Kyerematen took a decision to request that Ghana be allowed to host the UNCTAD 12 conference. Fortunately, Ghana was granted the responsibility to do that. However, more importantly, Kyerematen was able to negotiate with UNCTAD to organise the first World Investment Forum which has now become a major calendar event for UNCTAD.

“In that same regard if I become the DG of WTO, I will explore with members the possibility of having a Global Trade Summit, which would then provide a platform for different actors, business, civil society and other agents, does not matter if it is every two or four years, the important thing is we have to reach out to these other stakeholders’’, Mr Kyerematen said.

Being an economist and a lawyer by profession, he points out that he is psychologically committed and favours a programme of action that would support the Least Developing Countries (LDCs).

Coming from Ghana, in sub- Saharan Africa, in itself a least developing country, Mr Kyerematen emphasised that it is important to have a dialogue or discourse that seeks to ensure that the preferential treatments given to LDCs are not eroded over a period of time.

“If you look at the membership requirements I think they are being streamlined to make it easier for LDCs to participate, there are actually monitoring mechanisms in respect of the implementation of the Specific Trade Concerns (STCs) measures, so already a lot of things are on the table to support the LDCs to look at more robust and dynamic interventions that would complement what is provided under the preferential arrangements’’.

“As part of the Aid for Trade Programme, Enhance Integrated Framework which is to support LDCs to become more export ready and more efficient and effective, these are areas I would like to reinforce and put additional emphasis on’’.

As a practical negotiator involved in negotiations at the bilateral, multilateral, and at the regional levels in Africa, he has vast skills and experiences in negotiations, together with management skills, and with political insights, which are critical to the functions of the DG of the WTO.

Mr Kyerematen says the organisation needs a New Trade Consensus – a grand bargain built on a comprehensive, coherent and dynamic approach to the full range of issues and the interests of all Members.

“On the negotiating front, we need first to achieve outcomes in line with the guidance from the eighth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC8). These outcomes are needed both for their own value and to show that the system is still capable of producing results. They are important for rebuilding trust and confidence among negotiators.

“The more we can achieve by the time of the Bali Ministerial the better, though we also need to keep our ambitions realistic. You can be sure that this effort will be my immediate priority from my first day on the job’’.

A former Attorney General and Minister for Justice of Ghana, Nii Ayikoi Otto says Kenya should have rescinded the decision to nominate a candidate for the WTO position, given that the AU had already nominated Alan Kyerematen for the Director General position.

“If African countries vote for the candidate from Kenya and others also vote for Alan Kyerematen, definitely the African votes will split between the two candidates which will be an advantage to other candidates, it would have been better to respect the decision of the AU realising that the AU agreed to nominate Alan Kyerematen’’.

The matters of the WTO involves lot of issues relating to law, essentially based on bilateral treaties, multilateral treaties, trade between nations, obviously Alan Kyerematen being a lawyer have better strengths to handle these issues very well.

He was also once a trade minister in Ghana, and one time an ambassador to the USA, when you put all these things together he has abundant experiences in dealing with issues pertaining to trade, negotiations, among others.

Also, he brought Empretec Foundation, a global organisation that inspires developing countries to start, grow develop business into Ghana, he added.

An economist and lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, Theodora Akweley Odonkor says Alan Kyeremanteng, whose candidacy was approved by the AU at a meeting in July, 2012 happens to be a former Minister of Trade in Ghana and to have served in that ministerial status is widely seen as necessary to succeed Pascal Lamy.

“Alan Kyeremateng has exceled in both his academic and professional careers. This leaves no doubt that his qualifications has helped in achieving the great deal of success in his professional career and ultimately will become successful when he becomes the head of the World Trade organization to complete unfinished negotiations over trade liberalization and competing claims from different regional and economic blocs’’.

Photo of Alan Kyerematen
Columnist: Hinneh, Samuel