Trade ministers making good progress at UN trade talks in Nairobi

Trade ministers from 194 countries attending the UN trade and development talks are making good progress to shape the future of trade rules and regulations, a senior official has said.

The ministers have been drafting the Nairobi outcome document, which is a political text on issues affecting the global trade and a negotiated text, to be known as the Nairobi Consensus, which outlines a four-year programme of work for UNCTAD, an organization championing research on trade.

“This conference has facilitated networking among governments.

“It has also facilitated partnerships between the private sector and investors across borders.

“It has been marked by business-match-making sessions.

“I hope a few deals have also been struck,” Amina Mohamed, President of the ministerial talks.

Unlike the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has the mandate to make rules, the UNCTAD ministerial meeting is more concerned about discussing current affairs which limit trade.

“We are on track. The delegations are showing flexibility.

“We will continue to work throughout to achieve the desired outcomes,” Mohamed told reporters at a news conference.

The ministers attending the talks which kicked off in Nairobi on Sunday have expressed their desire to make world trade more productive for the creation of jobs.

They are also discussing possible areas of business regulations, touching on the rules and regulations that are required to enforce the protection of consumers from harmful products.

While the negotiating text still remains restricted, ministers said the trade rules under discussions would require partnerships and regional cooperation to implement.

Specifically, the ministers of trade are keen to have trade become a key source of finance to deal with poverty and to finance the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the new set of 17 goals, aimed at fighting poverty around the world by 2030.

A delegation of EU lawmakers said on Wednesday, the conference was a good place to discuss deeper issues concerning trade around the world.

They are also looking at deepening the implementation of international agreements dealing with taxation and debts.

“UNCTAD is really ready to be part of the SDGs. This is the duty of UNCTAD,” said Bernd Lange, Chairman of the EU Parliament’s Committee on International Trade.

According to the EU, the discussions at the UNCTAD would go a long way in helping businesses around the world to gain access to effective, fair and transparent system of dealing with trade disputes.

“We are convinced there are no fixed systems of resolving investment disputes and that these should be treated by independent courts.

This discussion is one of the issues of interest,” Lange told reporters.

Mohamed said while some issues under discussion in Nairobi would require the signing of international treaties to become binding, the Nairobi Consensus was a good place to provide countries with information about new trends in global trade and the issues affecting trade in general.

“This is a very crucial period to implement the SDGs.

“It will provide us with the building blocks. Lowering taxes are part of these discussions.

“We are drafting the final document and we might be ready within a day,” said Mohamed who is Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for foreign affairs.

Delegates at the conference are piling political pressure on UNCTAD to show that it can be trusted to deal with more complex trade issues and to shape the international economy in a way that benefits not just the states, but the entire civilian population, who are often affected by trade regulations.

The ministers are discussing issues such as how to deal with the protection of investors as well as providing investment guarantees.

“The system that gives obligations to investors in the management of investments require security guarantees,” Lange said, referring to the new system of dealing with disputes involving big firms and states on matters affecting investments.

While delegations at the conference are more divided on how to regulate trade and who should enjoy those regulatory powers, the EU insists the international organizations such as UNCTAD should not be given the sole mandate to enforce those rules and that each region must have power to regulate itself.