Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director -General of the World Trade Organisation, has urgedthe government to expedite the process for ratifying the Fisheries Subsidies agreement that was adopted in Geneva, June 2022.
She said the ratification would help Ghana as a developing country access a US$ 20 million fisheries fund meant for helping developing countries strengthen capacities for the fisheries sector through technical assistance and capacity building.
“Many of our countries need strengthening, so how do we build capacities to even know statistically what kind of fisheries we have to be able to have the appropriate data and even pursue those who are fishing illegally so we can report them,” she said during a meeting with Mr Kobina Tahir Hammond, the Minister of Trade and Industry.
She explained that the agreement sought to do away with US$22 billion harmful fisheries subsidies that allowed people and countries to fish illegally in the ocean leading to depletion of fish stock and destroying of natural habitat.
The situation, she said, directly affected about 12 million people in Africa who directly depended on fisheries.
Sharing highlights at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), she said members of the WTO had agreed to introduce more flexibility in the form of a waiver on the patent on vaccines for a five-year period to allow African countries manufacture their own vaccines.
“It is not proper that we import 99 per cent of the vaccines we use on the continent and 90 per cent of other pharmaceuticals,” she added.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala described the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as a big opportunity for the continent and said the WTO was desirous that the instrument would grow and develop in accordance with Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU).
She encouraged Ghanaians to take advantage of digitally delivered and traded services.
They should also commit to value addition on products and commodities manufactured on the continent to take advantage of the market power that the AfCFTA provided.
“As we speak, there is a very big move to diversify supply chain for many products and we know that during the pandemic where there were some vulnerabilities that were obvious in the way that manufacturing is concentrated in the world for several products,” she said.
Mr Hammond, for his part, assured the WTO of Ghana’s commitment to ratifying the agreement which, he said, would be given the attention it deserved by the government.
He called on the WTO to reform its adjudication system, especially the appellate system, to provide the needed assurance to member states in addressing disputes and to give the multilateral trading system (MTS) the needed predictability and certainty.
Mr Samuel Quaatey, Technical Advisor to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, in an interview, said a first technical meeting had been held in December between the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Ministry of Trade and Industry to map out areas for redress in the agreement.
“There are some areas we need to look at. If you look at article 3.7, it requires that your law must cover such an agreement and currently our law does not, so it means we need to amend Act 880 of the amended Fisheries Act 2014.
“What our law has is an act that proscribes punishment against vessels involved in IUU,” he said.
The WTO Director – General is expected to depart for la CoteIvoire and Kenya, Wednesday, after meeting with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and participating in a discussion on making globalisation work for Africa.
It is hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs.
The purpose of her two-day visit is also to meet policymakers, business leaders and civil society representatives, while underscoring the WTO’s commitment to reinforcing support to