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U.S. Statement on the Trade Policy Review of Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Togo
July 3, 2012

WTO Trade Policy Review of Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Togo

Statement delivered by David Shark,
Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO

July 2, 2012

Thank you, Chair.  The United States is delighted to welcome Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and Togo, to the first joint review of all three Members together.  We thank the delegations and the Secretariat for their respective reports, which were circulated prior to the meeting.  We would also like to thank our discussant, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha, for his remarks on the review of these three Members.

The reports circulated for this meeting outlined critical areas of improvement and helped us understand recent developments in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and Togo.  The reports also highlighted reforms that are underway, and noted some of the challenges facing the three countries as they strive to participate more effectively in the global trading system and to use trade as a means to stimulate greater economic growth and development.

All three share membership in the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), highlighting their commitment to regional economic integration and their efforts to break down 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 UEMOA specifically.  We support these undertakings with the expectation that they advance and complement the multilateral trading system.  Accordingly, in 2002 we entered into a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA, with UEMOA to raise the level and strength of our dialogue with UEMOA on trade and economic issues.  Under the TIFA, the United States and UEMOA are working together on critical trade and investment issues, including discussions about regional and multilateral trade concerns, strengthening and diversifying UEMOA’s trade, and the utilization and implementation of the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The United States notes the progress that the governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and Togo have made towards a market-based economy.  We particularly appreciate these efforts in the face of the region’s political challenges and the limited financial resources available in each of these countries.   We note, for example, the governments 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 note each government’s continued efforts to reduce macroeconomic imbalances, to diversify and broaden their economies, and to create a more favorable investment environment for private sector development.  In our view, broad-based private sector participation in a competitive economy is another mechanism that fosters growth, so we are encouraged that the three Members plan to continue to restructure key sectors of their economies.

While acknowledging these governments’ advances, we also believe that much work remains to be done to foster a more open trading and economic environment that promotes greater competitiveness, export diversification, and, perhaps most importantly, much-needed investment.  Future success in these countries will depend on continued improvement of the business climate, attacking corruption, promoting a fair judicial system, and implementing transparent rules and regulations in critical sectors of the economy such as cocoa and cashew production.  We also encourage each country to actively revive stalled reform efforts and privatization programs, as a renewed commitment to such reforms would help improve the commercial environment and encourage investment in these countries.

We also hope for increased political stability in the region, as this will help support and foster the economic reform efforts in each of these countries.  Therefore, we urge continued attention to resolving the region’s political challenges, in particular in Guinea-Bissau, as they continue to threaten economic growth, development, and bilateral and regional trade.

Most of the exports from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and Togo to the United States enter the U.S. market duty-free either on a most favored nation (MFN) or a preferential basis.  Since its launch in 2000, AGOA has provided opportunities for real people and businesses, and contributed to the growth of African economies through expanded and diversified trade, and we are encouraged by AGOA’s positive trends.  Beyond market access, we know there is much more that we can do together with our African partners.  In recognition ofo these countries’ need for trade capacity building assistance to maximize the benefits of trade preference programs, help diversify their economies, and improve their respective trade environments, the United States offers trade capacity building programs and trade-related technical assistance through its West African regional U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Ghana and through USAID bilateral programs.  In addition, USAID’s Global Competitiveness Hubs in Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal provide specialized support for businesses in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and Togo, and help these countries to take advantage of trade opportunities provided under AGOA.

As noted in the Secretariat Report for each of these countries, there are significant obstacles and costs for traders in each of these countries, as they go about their daily business of moving goods to market and participating in the international trading system.  We look forward to constructive engagement on trade facilitation issues, including in the WTO trade facilitation negotiations, to promote measures to reduce red tape and customs and cross-border inefficiencies, which can significantly impact each Members’ — and Africa’s — regional and global trade competitiveness.

We have submitted questions for each of the Members under review, in areas such as import licensing, customs procedures and customs valuation, intellectual property rights, and export subsidies and notifications.  We look forward to reviewing the responses.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, while we recognize the capacity constraints that may confront each government’s participation in the multilateral trading system, we are also mindful of the critical, positive role that increased trade openness can play in their economies.  Making pro-trade domestic reforms consistent with the WTO framework, combined with trade liberalization efforts, are a proven framework for garnering foreign investment and generating economic growth.  We look forward to continued work with all three Members and wish all three a successful review.

Thank you.