Monday, March 20, 2023

Lamy applauds Botswana’s membership to WTO

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Monday praised Botswana, which, against all odds, has been able to keep its membership with the body that tries to make global trade playing field level.

Pascal Lamy, the WTO Director General said the landlocked and world largest diamond producer has bigger weight comparably to bigger elephants like China, US or India as decisions are made by consensus.

“Botswana has been an active member of the organisation and has been above average,” said Lamy. “It punches above its weight.”

Despite the odds, Lamy who is on a two day visit to the country, revealed WTO and international trade is ‘important for this country’ because of its size, dependence on diamond mining and the need to diversify.

“Botswana is not an elephant of WTO, but officials come here from time to time to listen to this country.”

Botswana’s other unique challenge is that it is landlocked and this makes it difficult to access markets and when there is access, it comes at a cost.

“The vehicle for diversification is international trade. In terms of market access, Botswana has no problem with market access for diamonds. It might have difficulties in market for beef, textiles and services,” said Lamy.

Lamy revealed that Botswana has been helped by such bodies as USAID, the US body based in Gaborone in addressing bottlenecks that stifles trade.

He said there has been lot of improvement in addressing Botswana’s difficulties in accessing the outside markets, including the North South Corridor.

This process is a Model Aid for Trade Programme that has enabled the Regional Economic Communities of COMESA, EAC and SADC, their Member States and the International Community to implement an economic corridor-based approach to reducing costs of cross-border trade in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“There has been a lot of improvement; customs opening hours. All these little things have been worked on,” he stated.

Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, the Trade and Industry minister, advised that the country will need to shift its focus to other items that could be traded amid these transport and logistical bottlenecks.

“We need to start looking at trading in services. It has a comparative advantage,” she said.
Botswana is a member of the body that has 153 countries around the world that makes its membership.
Makgato-Malesu added that Lamy’s visit gives the country a chance to ‘cement and voice’ issues pertaining to trade.

“Our position is known; we talked about subsidies and how it impacts competition and we also talked about the Doha round. We believe we had a nice discussion,” said the minister.

Lamy arrived in the country on Sunday and was expected to leave Botswana for other member states on Monday after a whistle stop at the Office of the President.

While in Botswana, he met promoters of the country abroad, including Chief Executive Officers of Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA) and International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).


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