Namibia’s Position at WTO Talks

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK In view of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting starting early next week in Hong Kong, Namibia Development Trust and other stakeholders yesterday met to discuss Namibia’s position in trade justice. Many members of society have anticipated that the upcoming WTO would be crucial if not one of the greatest battles in international trade ever between rich and developing countries. Though the ministers would meet to negotiate new trade rules, it is believed that the only answer to Namibia’s economic challenges is the strengthening of the country’s Public Private Partnership. At a breakfast meeting, one of the key economic players in the country Harold Pupkewitz, in his input stated that the Namibian economy is so small and fragile that Namibians need to protect it. “Namibians have to work together to avoid the collapse of the economy. There is need to develop the power of labour in the country. The only way forward is to face reality and increase production,” he advised. Secretary General of the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) Phillip Strydom said there should have been a representative at the WTO meeting to stand for the voiceless. The church believes that exploitation of the weak should be harshly punished. “It is important that we speak on behalf of the weak because if there is no justice, there won’t be peace, no stability and no development,” he stated. Researcher at the Labour Resource and Research Institute Cons Karamata feels priority at this ministerial meeting should be placed on tariff reduction on agriculture imports. This, according to him, is where the great concern for Namibia and Africa should lie especially that tariffs are important sources of government revenue. “The battle in Hong Kong will be about tariff reduction, both for agricultural as well as for non-agricultural goods. Industrial countries are seeking a drastic reduction of tariffs worldwide,” he stated. Looking at the agriculture sector, products are unable to compete in an international market and should the proposed reduction of tariffs take place, most local markets in the continent are most likely to collapse. Based on that, Karamata urges all the WTO attendants from the developing nations to stand firm and prevent any pressure that would lead to the collapse of markets, with fatal consequences. In agreement with Pupkewitz, the president of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Rainer Ritter says development comes from within. “If we want to develop, we have to be true to ourselves. We cannot claim moral justice if we are not putting ourselves on the moral ground,” he stated. More consultation is needed to realise and recog-nise efforts by the public and private sectors in partnership. The WTO ministerial meeting takes place from December 13 to 18.