As global trade negotiations under the aegis of the World Trade Organisations remain unresolved, countries are trying to see how best they could continue to be part of world trade. Africa has always been at a disadvantage at the WTO because most of the countries on the continent do not appear to be fully prepared for very complicated trade negotiations.
However, whether African countries like it or not, they have to become full partners of the global economy and they have to formulate their own ideas and push their case in regard to the Doha Round of trade talks. It has finally dawned on African governments that they have to have first-hand knowledge of the global trading system in order to fight their corners successfully at the WTO. And all of a sudden, African experts in world trade issues are bei ng asked to make serious contributions to aid the continent’s negotiating position.
It is in this light that the African Economic Research Consortium undertook a project aimed at identifying and examining the critical analytical and policy issues involved in Africa’s economic links with the rest of the world, particularly in the context of the emerging global trading system. This resulted in a three-volume set presenting the results of research carried out by the AERC under its Africa and the World Trading System project.
African Countries in the New Trade Negotiations: Interests, Options and Challenges, is the third volume. It covers trade in services in some depth, with both country studies and two overview pieces. Other chapters are devoted to industrial policy, intellectual property rights, special and different treatment, and experience with technical assistance for capacity building. Agriculture, which is the mainstay of most African economies, according to the editors, will be dealt with in a separate volume.
Given the fluid nature of the current world trading system ‘ attended by the economic downt urn, which is beginning to give rise to protectionist policies ‘ the landscape could change very quickly. Indeed, this is not lost on the editors who note: ‘It is important to emphasise that the papers published represent work-in-progress. They are based on readily available data but it is clear that, with time, more data can and most be obtained and analysed.’
Nevertheless, this is a very informative book. It should help African trade negotiators find their way through the maze that is the Doha Round. The fact that African trade experts are publishing their findings on the world trading system, should in itself be a positive sign for the African continent in relation to its position in the global economy. It is also a positive sign that the AERC is committed to continuing its works in this field of research.