Nairobi, Kenya – The United States has reached out to Kenya and other influential African nations to save the stalled global trade negotiations ahead of the December ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The US government has promised to marshal its forces within the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to give financial support to African cotton farmers as part of efforts to rescue the global trade talks from the current deadlock.
Kenya’s Trade and Industry Minister Dr Mukhisa Kituyi said after holding talks with President George W. Bush’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Faryar Shirzad, that the US was concerned that the failure to reach a consensus on the talks could hurt world trade.
“The US says they are ready to compensate African farmers for their loses through the World Bank. But we are saying, let the WB and the IMF be brought under the table,” the Kenyan Minister told journalists in Nairobi Tuesday after his audience with the US official.
Shirzad, who is President Bush’s Deputy Assistant for International Economic Affairs, hailed Kenya for the role it has been playing in the international trade negotiations.
He said Washington D.C. was interested in building consensus ahead of the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong and was keen on advancing bilateral economic ties with Kenya.
“Hong Kong is a very important meeting. We discussed issues on how to progress in the talks and also discussed issues of bilateral concerns,” said the visiting US official.
African nations have remained adamant that no deals would be struck during the forthcoming talks unless the US and European Union countries removed the huge agricultural subsidies they give to farmers, which distorted world prices.
Crops produced by African farmers are getting lesser and lesser access to European and US markets because their cost of production have continued to rise, while international commodity prices have remained stagnant, reducing their profitability.
“We just woke up one day and realised that our dairy products had become too expensive and now we are hearing from the experts that there are more plans to further open up our markets,” said Justus Monda, a Kenyan dairy farmer.
“The cost of imported powered milk has become so cheap and we are hearing these farmers are getting assistance to produce cheaply, we cannot even afford expert services, we have to pay and the government says these are demand-driven,” Monda told PANA in Nairobi.
The US government’s pledge to whip up the WB’s support for cotton growers in Africa is likely to raise a new passion among West African farmers who have been deeply hurt by the lavish subsidies, which led to the collapse of the WTO talks.
African ministers walked out of the WTO Ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico in 2003, stalling the global trade talks despite individual plans to resuscitate the talks.
“Substantial progress has been made on the trade talks but the EU has missed another key July deadline for reducing their subsidies,” Kituyi explained. The level of the subsidies have gone down by 40 percent but they are eroding our market preferences,” he added.