Trade officials and experts from Commonwealth African countries gathered in the Seychelles this week to discuss regional and global trade issues affecting their growth and development.
Recognising the challenges facing world trade and the slow progress in multilateral negotiations, the meeting focused on how to improve trade and investment, boost market access for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and strengthen regional integration following the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Delegates also discussed the potential for digital trade and e-commerce to transform African economies, as well as strategies to overcome infrastructure and regulatory hurdles.
Delivering the keynote address at the opening on Thursday, the Minister of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Maurice Lousteau Lalanne highlighted the growing importance of the services sector, especially in expanding output and creating jobs.
“We should therefore focus on creating an attractive, well-regulated business environment which is optimum for investors,” he told the meeting, which wraps up today.
Mr. Lalanne called for measures that will help MSMEs across Africa tap into international markets for their products and services. Noting the vulnerability of small economies, least developed countries and other developing countries, he urged further regional integration to stem the effects of external shocks.
In his remarks, Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Yonov Frederick Agah underscored the need for renewed commitment to the multilateral trading system, despite little progress to date on WTO trade talks.
Acting Head of International Trade Policy at the Commonwealth Teddy Y. Soobramanien added: “These consultations are timely, give the tremendous evolution of global trade landscape in the last decade. With the rise in non-tariff barriers to trade, slow progress in WTO trade talks, and the threat of trade wars, it is important for African countries to strategise on how to respond to these trends.”
The discussions were preceded by the second meeting of the Commonwealth African Trade Negotiators’ Network, an informal network of former trade negotiators from the continent. Outcomes of both meetings will help shape the Commonwealth’s work programme to support trade and development in member countries.