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WTO Trade Policy Review of Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali
October 4, 2010

United States Statement delivered by William D. Christen

Geneva, October 4 , 2010

Thank you, Chair. The United States is pleased to welcome the delegations from Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali to this Trade Policy Review. We thank the delegations and the Secretariat for their respective reports that were circulated before this meeting. Both reports outlined important areas of progress and helped us to understand recent developments in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, reforms underway, and some of the challenges facing the three countries as they seek to participate more effectively in the global trading system and to use trade as a means to spur greater economic growth and development. We would also like to thank our discussant, Ambassador Luzius WASESCHA, for his thoughts and perspectives with regard to the trade policies of the three countries under review.

The United States is pleased that Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, which share membership in the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), have chosen to undertake this review jointly. Their decision to do so underscores their commitment to regional economic integration and to breaking down the trade barriers to regional trade.

The United States strongly supports regional economic integration in sub-Saharan Africa, both in general and as it pertains to the UEMOA specifically. We support these undertakings with the expectation that they advance and complement the multilateral trading system. Notably, in 2002 we entered into a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA, with the UEMOA countries to raise the level and strength of our dialogue with UEMOA on trade and economic issues. U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Burkina Faso Commerce Minister Kone participated in the most recent meeting of the U.S.-UEMOA TIFA Council, on August 4 in Washington, DC.

The United States notes the progress that the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali have made towards a market-based economy. We particularly appreciate these efforts under the constraints of their limited financial resources. We note each government’s continued efforts to reduce macroeconomic imbalances and liberalize their economies; their ongoing efforts to diversify and broaden their economies away from their reliance on cotton; and their efforts to create a more favorable investment environment for private sector development. Broad based private sector participation in a competitive economy is another mechanism that fosters growth, so we are encouraged that the governments have plans to continue to privatize and restructure key sectors of their economies.

We are encouraged by the Governments’ efforts to increase private sector development and continue structural reform, and look forward to hearing more detail regarding the status of their privatization programs.

Most of the exports from Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali to the United States enter our market duty-free either on an MFN or a preferential basis. We took particular note of the Secretariat Report’s observation that, while the three countries qualify for a variety of preferential trade programs, they have not made optimum use of them. For example, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali exported only $27,000 worth of goods to the United States during the first six months of 2010 under duty-free provisions of AGOA and the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences. In our view, however, there are many goods which Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali could conceivably produce more competitively and export to the United States which would also benefit from duty-free treatment under AGOA and GSP

We recognize the governments’ needs for trade capacity building assistance in order to improve their respective trade environments and to participate more effectively in the WTO. The United States offers trade capacity building programs and trade-related technical assistance through its West African regional USAID mission in Ghana, as well as through USAID bilateral programs and substantial Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts in each country. In addition, USAID’s Global Competitiveness Hubs in Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal provide support for businesses in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali seeking to take advantage of trade opportunities provided under AGOA. Finally, all three countries are receiving assistance as part of the West African Cotton Improvement Program (WACIP).

We commend Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali for the significant steps they have taken in recent years to liberalize trade and to modernize their investment regimes. We note, for example, the government’s implementation of reforms to improve the business environment and promote investment. These measures have contributed to steady growth in the national economy over the past six years. As the three Governments undertake efforts to further improve the business environment in their countries, we encourage them to incorporate business-enabling measures and trade capacity building into their respective national development plans.

We would also like to draw particular attention to the Secretariat’s recommendation that each country consider pursuing liberalization of the Economic Community for West Africa (ECOWAS) Common External Tariff rate, which serves to undercut competitiveness and economic growth in these three countries and the larger ECOWAS region.

We acknowledge the Secretariat’s observation that Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali take an active part in the WTO’s technical assistance programs and in the Integrated Framework process that are intended to promote the effective integration of trade into national development plans. We are pleased that, according to the Secretariat, most of the results of the Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies (DTIS) that were conducted for the three countries in 2004 2005 have been integrated into the governments’ respective Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategies. We will be interested to hear about improvements your governments have made to implement the recommendations.

We further take note of the Secretariat’s observation that since the previous review of the trade policies of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, progress has been made in computerizing customs clearance procedures and putting them on line. It is well-known that the United States supports the WTO’s work on trade facilitation especially because we believe that it holds such promise for developing country Members. We are eager to know your governments’ views on fully computerizing all of your import formalities and whether this is an Aid for Trade priority for your governments.

The United States has submitted questions for each country seeking clarification and elaboration on some of the points made in the Government’s and Secretariat’s reports. We note, here, that we asked a number of questions regarding each government’s sanitary and phytosanitary practices. We are interested to know about the steps each government is taking or plans to take to address its sanitary and phytosanitary concerns, in a way that takes into account its obligations under the WTO agreements. We look forward to considering all of the governments’ responses to our questions and to hearing your views.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, while we recognize the capacity constraints that may confront each government’s participation in WTO activities, we, nonetheless, encourage them to play an active role in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations. The United States believes that LDCs such as Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali have much to gain from a balanced and ambitious result in the Doha negotiations that include meaningful new market access for all. Such a result could further enhance opportunities for each of you to broaden your nation’s export base, your export markets and hence your country’s opportunity to diversify. The United States looks forward to working with each government toward bringing the round to a successful conclusion. And we offer all good wishes to your governments for a successful Trade Policy Review.

Thank you.