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Source: South Africa News Agency

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel says there is a need for the African continent to deepen its levels of industrialisation while also addressing strategic vulnerabilities exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This requires more investment flows, economic diversification and greater policy space in the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for vulnerable economies commencing the hard work of economic recovery,” Patel said.

Patel made the call at a G20 Trade and Investment Ministers meeting held early this week.

The virtual meeting was attended by Trade Ministers from the largest economies, including the United States, China, European Union, India, Japan, Brazil and Indonesia.

South Africa was the only African representative at the meeting.

Patel said that while the pandemic will affect all countries, the pain will be concentrated in economies with greater fiscal or financial vulnerability, or with higher levels of infection.

“The pandemic disrupted global supply chains. The new consensus on the need for greater supply chain resilience need to include efforts to spread risk by enabling the greater geographic spread of manufacturing,” Patel said.

The G20 Ministers meeting focused on current international trade and investment developments, including COVID-19; the future of the WTO; boosting micro, small and medium enterprises; pathways to economic diversification; and strengthening international investment.

The Minister welcomed the meeting’s agreement to support economic diversification, saying he looked forward to joint efforts to achieve it.

“This should include WTO reform that addresses imbalances in the rules that emerged from the Uruguay Round, to allow for legitimate measures to support industrial development and to provide policy space for digital economy development on the African continent to drive economic growth and development,” Patel said at the meeting.

Patel affirmed that global trade be underpinned by the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries.

He also welcomed the meeting’s consensus to promote women’s economic empowerment and the efforts of micro, small and medium enterprises.

Addressing inconsistencies

Pointing to the agreement by Trade Ministers on the risks of illicit trade, the Minister drew attention to the unresolved problems of under-invoicing and other illicit actions in international trade, which damage the national industrial capacity of many African manufacturers.

This, he said, must be addressed vigorously in the future G20 Trade track.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the G20 Trade and Investment Ministers adopted a communique on “Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”.

Sustainable growth

In the communiqué, G20 Trade Ministers committed to use all available policy tools to minimise the economic and social damage of the pandemic, restore global growth, maintain market stability and strengthen resilience.

The G20 Ministers also recognised the need to increase the sustainability and resilience of national, regional and global supply chains, and to expand production capacity and trade, notably in the areas of pharmaceutical, medical and other health-related products.

The Ministers further recognised the importance of continuing to foster women’s economic empowerment with a view to achieving global economic recovery and endorsed a set of guidelines to promote inclusive economic growth, through increased participation of small and medium enterprises in international trade and investment. – SAnews.gov.za

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