Delegates from IGAD Member States have converged in Kampala, Uganda for a five-day training workshop on regional trade and integration issues as support to capacity building in trade negotiation skills starting today.
Drawn from the Ministries of Trade, Commerce, Industry and Foreign Affairs of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, the delegates were addressed by the Spokesperson in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uganda, Amb. Elly Kamahungye and the Director of Economic Cooperation and Social Development at the IGAD Secretariat, Mr. Elsadig Abdalla during a brief official opening ceremony.
Amb. Kamahungye stated that his country shares concerns on the trade imbalances affecting IGAD Member States, other developing countries and more particularly the least developed ones as a result of unfavourable past agreements. He gave an example of the current (World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement as one of such major agreements that were concluded without effective participation of negotiators from the developing countries. The spokesperson also cited the examples of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) where developing nations focused on tariff eliminations for market access and the Doha Development Agenda that has not been concluded due to lack of negotiation capacity and the many inbuilt imbalances.
Furthermore, he underscored the difficulties faced by ACP countries particularly on (Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) that are a result of pressure from WTO that required the EU to have in place a system that must be compatible to the Most Favored Nations Principles (MFN) within the WTO set up. He commended IGAD for organizing the training workshop that will equip the delegates with proper understanding of the need to understand the previous agreements, the implementation implications, interplay between the old and the new agreements being negotiated as well as other obligations before undertaking or concluding new ones.
On his part, the IGAD Director wished the delegates all the success in their deliberations and encouraged them to network among one another in the spirit of regional integration. He further urged them to use the training forum as the beginning of continued engagement in the region for the economic and social benefit of the people.
Earlier, the Program Manager in charge of Trade, Industry and Tourism at the IGAD Secretariat, Mr. Joseph Rwanshote pointed out that the training had been organized to address the capacity insufficiency in the region and lack of standardized negotiation skills among the IGAD Member States. He said that with the emergence of new trade partners such as China, India and Brazil, IGAD Member States need to obtain satisfactory terms for their trade with these partners.
Mr. Rwanshote explained that following a needs assessment conducted by a team of consultants, the training program has been tailor-made to address some of the issues and concerns raised during the survey. Mr. Rwanshote indicated that practical ways of improving trade negotiations in the region had been devised and the delegates would learn about them in the course of the five-day training that ends on Saturday 14th April 2012.