Kenya Readies for WTO MC11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina


Dr Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary, State Department of Trade

Mr Ahmed Farah, Country Director, Kenya Trademark East Africa

Representatives of Ministries/ Departments/Organisations,

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. I am delighted to be here today to officiate the Opening this National Preparatory Committee Workshop for the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference. This Workshop is important to Kenya because it gives us an opportunity to adequately prepare a country position that will guide our deliberations at the 11th Ministerial Conference. As a founding member and a significant player at the WTO, the Ministerial Conference provides us with a platform to contribute to the development of the rules of the global multilateral trading system at the highest level.
  1. At this juncture allow me to extend my sincere appreciation to TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) for supporting the Government of Kenya in convening this important workshop. This support comes two years after the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi in December 2015, in which TMEA’s contribution was highly invaluable.
  1. As it may be recalled it was here that we gathered from 9th – 12th July 2015, to finalise our position paper for the 2015 conference. The outcome of Maanzoni was not only utilised for the MC10 but also provided guidance to the African Ministers of Trade Meeting which took place during the same month at Boma Hotel, Nairobi.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. The 10th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi in December 2015 was a wonderful and historic experience. It not only reaffirmed the working of a multilateral trading system for the benefit of all but also fortified Kenya’s centrality and contribution to the WTO agenda. Kenya’s meticulous coordination and shepherding of outcomes provided many lessons for future hosts. It is worth noting that as we prepare for MC11 to be held in Buenos Aires next month, Argentina has expressed her eagerness to learn from Kenya’s experience. It was against this recognition that our Cabinet Secretary, Amb. Amina Mohamed was invited to Argentina earlier this year, by the incoming Chair H.E. Susana Malcorra, to share Kenya’s experience as the Chair of MC10.
  1. In addition, Kenya was invited to the WTO Mini-Ministerial meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco last month, for consultations on the issues that will form the agenda of the MC11, a further demonstration that Kenya will be an important player in Buenos Aires, and this certainly calls for adequate preparations to facilitate constructive engagements in the forthcoming Conference.
  1. As you may be aware our Permanent Representative to the WTO, Amb. (Dr.) Stephen Karau is leading the agriculture negotiations in Geneva, as the Chair of the Special Session of the Agriculture Committee. In this position, he has the daunting task of bridging the WTO Members’ extreme positions and building the elusive consensus. For instance, while some Members, such as Kenya advocate for the capping of the overall trade-distorting support (OTDS) in agriculture, other Members like the Group of 10 (G10), which is made up of developed economies, have taken the position that WTO Members should only focus on the reduction of the difference between their bound commitments and the current applied levels.
  1. Agriculture negotiations are key to most of our countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, who depend on the sector for their livelihood. Therefore, progress in the agriculture negotiations on critical issues such as domestic support, market access and public stockholding for food security, will represent a major gain for Kenya and other developing countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. It is worth noting that the regional integration commitment will not be realised if some countries are still outside the multilateral trading system. As a matter of fact, it is difficult for Kenya to negotiate bilateral or regional trade deals with countries that are not members of the WTO. Therefore, Kenya should continue to encourage and assist all the countries in the region and beyond, which are outside the WTO, to take the necessary steps towards the painstaking accession process. Being a founding member of WTO and an active supporter of the African Group, Kenya has the obligation to support the neighbouring and other African countries in the accession process.
  1. In doing so, it is important to take cognisance of the strong voices in many developing countries and LDCs, particularly from their civil society organisations and lobby groups, against the WTO. A common perception is that the WTO robs states of their sovereignty and policy space to regulate sectors such as the environment, human rights and health. Therefore, as we lobby countries in the region to join the WTO, let us be aware of such perceptions and encourage these countries to look at the overall economic benefits of the multilateral trading system. In any event, almost all the remaining countries are lining up to join the WTO, which currently has 164 members.
  1. It is in this context that we recently hosted a regional dialogue on accession to the WTO, where countries in the process of acceding to the WTO, were invited to share experiences. It is important to note that of the 21 countries that are currently in the process of acceding to the WTO, 8 are African, 4 of which are from the Eastern African region. These are Comoros, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. South Sudan, which also attended the dialogue, is soon expected to make a formal accession request to the WTO. In Buenos Aires, Kenya will be pushing for support by the WTO membership towards the countries in the process of acceding to the WTO. Indeed, this was the decision of the Nairobi Regional Dialogue. We thank the University of Nairobi for partnering with us and the WTO to organise the Regional Dialogue Conference. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. The outcome of the MC10 contained important commitments on the elimination of export subsidies in agriculture; LDCs issues; and the elimination of tariffs on information technology products, among others. This was a major achievement which built on the gains of the 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia in 2013. The Nairobi outcome also brought the WTO agenda back on track, given the divergence of Members on many issues during the negotiations in Geneva. In addition, the confidence in the WTO was at its lowest due to lack of progress in the implementation of what was to be the Doha Development Agenda.
  1. As we look forward to a productive MC11, may I take this opportunity to thank all the stakeholders who have participated in the preparation of the matrix that outlines Kenya’s draft position on the MC11 agenda. I am informed that the draft will form the basis of the discussions in this workshop and I am also optimistic that the outcome of this workshop will be a well-thought-out Kenya’s position that will stand the test of the rigorous deliberations in Buenos Aires.
  1. Let us keep in mind that any positions that we take or proposals that we make, should always reflect the best interests of our country. We must leverage every opportunity to improve our economy, our balance of trade, and the livelihoods of the people of Kenya. Therefore, even as we ponder on how to address the highly contentious issues at the WTO, let us look out for, and take advantage of any low hanging fruits in this process. Where possible, let us utilise the multilateral trading system for the benefit of our hardworking farmers, our resilient industries, our robust service sector and above all, our dynamic exporters.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Allow me also to extend my appreciation to Maanzoni Resort for the continued hospitality during preparations of these WTO forums. Indeed, this Resort has become part and parcel of Kenya’s contribution to the WTO negotiations and a place where important outcomes that inform Kenya’s position are generated.
  1. Let me conclude by emphasizing that it is now the policy of the Government of Kenya to involve all the stakeholders not only in policy formulation but also in its implementation. It is, therefore, encouraging that this workshop has diverse participation from the private sector, the civil society, the academia and the public sector. This diversity will, without doubt, enrich the outcome of our consultations. I, therefore, wish you fruitful deliberations and effective participation in Buenos Aires.

With these few remarks, I declare this workshop officially open.

Thank You.