“As a country that finds itself as collateral damage in the current trade wars we can’t condone any undermining of the rules of the multilateral trading system,” said South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies.
He was speaking at the G20 Trade Ministers Meeting held in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The Trade Ministers Meeting focused on key factors for G20 policy making to support more inclusive participation and upgrading Agro-food Global Value Chains (GVCs) and exchange experiences on how countries can take advantage of and address the challenges presented by the New Industrial Revolution/ the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The meeting is a precursor of the G20 Leaders Summit to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, later this year.
Davies emphasised that South Africa’s participation at the Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting was to contribute to and shape global trade and investment policy debates by providing views from a developing country standpoint.
He highlighted the necessity for countries to adhere to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and that the needs of all countries should be taken into account when solutions are discussed for the current global trade challenges.
“Legitimate and durable solutions, including any WTO reform, require that the needs of all and not only the needs of some are taken into account. For Africa policy space to industrialise is paramount.”
Davies further supported the need for a discussion to resolve the current impasse in the appointment of World Trade Organisation Appellate Body members.
“We support the idea of an early and focus discussion on the dispute settlement issue, one that seeks the efficiency and effectiveness of the system; and furthermore the cost effectiveness of it so that more countries can participate in it in a more meaningful way.”
The meeting amongst others agreed that there is a need to step up dialogue and actions to mitigate risks and enhance confidence in international trade. The Ministers also welcomed the discussion of key factors for G20 trade and investment policy-making options to support the participation and increasing value-addition in agro-food Global Value Chains, which can particularly benefit developing countries.
Davies added that the technological and process changes taking place worldwide may either exacerbate or alleviate inequality in the world. He said that the digital economy tends to be dominated by a few large firms, with foreign firms in the major economies in the world far ahead of those in the developing world.
“While these technologies have the potential to significantly increase the human welfare, solve a number of developmental challenges, to promote greater access to international trade, to technology and greater opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs), it also has the potential to widen inequalities and to concentrate economic power resources in a smaller number of hands. If we want to make sure the first is the outcome rather than the second it will require particular effort and the adoption of appropriate policies” added Minister Davies.