The global trade system is not neutral. Constructed during the second half of the 20th century, trade rules tend to support the interests of the major trading nations and corporations of that era, while the priorities of the South and the global 99% have routinely been sidelined. Today, while the system can impact us all, affecting our climate, jobs, work conditions, public services and the supply and prices of essential goods, the systematic exclusion of Southern countries from the top-table of trade decision-making has caused Southern perspectives and interests to be sidelined. In this panel we invite eminent speakers from three continents to reflect on these challenges, presenting their perspectives on the trade system, and sharing their priorities for change.
COVID-19 generated a new buzz around our work and renewed interest in the study of vulnerability. Since then, we have reappraised our initial piece, with the intention of moving beyond its conceptual foundations toward a more practical and concrete application of the work. We realized however, that for many, there is curiosity around the TVI project, and ultimately what we are trying to achieve through it. In this reflective piece, we present briefly the TVI in a nutshell – its aims, methodology and conceptual premises – and then provide initial thoughts on the way forward under our TVI project.
The quality of public service delivery has been shown to affect tax non-compliance in an important way. Among other issues that have been attributed to low tax revenues in Nigeria, the State of the fiscal social contract can be said to be the single most important underlying cause. While there remains a depth of systemic issues to be resolved in order to rebuild the broken links in the fiscal social contract properly, the predicted post-pandemic impact on digital communication and business provides Nigeria with the opportunity to leverage on digital growth and engagement to bargain a stronger social contract, particularly with its largest demographic.
Traditional medicines have an equally important role as vaccines, therapeutics and medical devices protected through classical IPRs such as patents. For this reason, it is important to include traditional medicines within the scope of IPR protection, including within the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement. Doing so would go beyond the classical debate of protecting medicines, vaccines and therapeutics mainly through patents as currently understood within the TRIPS Agreement.
The suspension of operations as a result of government measures towards curbing Covid-19, should not be encouraged. Competition agencies must remain vigilant in protecting vulnerable consumers with no bargaining power from unscrupulous businesses. Further, while cartel conduct is per se illegal, it is the responsibility of the competition agencies to provide the business community with guidance on how they can operate during the crisis and at the same time comply with competition law. Covid-19 has also proved to us that, competition agencies need to reinvent their enforcement including the adoption of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and investing in the security and privacy concerns of the people. Integration of technology is no longer a choice.
The opening quote taken from the G20 Ministerial Statement is a welcome acknowledgment by the most powerful that some countries and citizens lay greater claim to the title of “vulnerable” than others. However, it is not enough. Prime Minister Mottley’s clarion call for global leadership in this area and application of the vulnerability index is one we have wholeheartedly embraced. Through our TVI, we are proposing tangible and effective ways to cater to the patent vulnerabilities of countries in regions like the Caribbean and Africa.
It would be beneficial to take more interest in private international law, but even more useful to adopt a harmonised approach in dealing with international commercial law. There are several justifications for Nigeria to consider the high-octane aspects of international trade such as free trade. Nevertheless, a journey towards sustainable growth would be to operate a rather seamless philosophy that brings different strands of commercial law interests together in dealing with the world.
Intra Africa trade remains at its lowest ebb and perhaps this sad state of affairs can only be remedied by the actualization of the envisaged Africa Economic Community (AEC). To this extent RIAs, such as those under study in this paper, offer viable building blocks and learning curves for negotiating in the much larger multilateral trade system.
This new Continental Free Trade bloc is now entrusted with the competence to engage other FTA Blocs such as the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and Association of South Eastern Nations (ASEAN), on trade policy from an Afri-Centric perspective - the essence of Afri-Multilateralism. Hitherto, the various national governments across the Continent had engaged global trade from the prism of nationalistic interests but this new paradigm affords Africa, for the first time, an opportunity to engage on trans-Sahara, trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific negotiations on an equal footing, and not under the auspices of 'emerging countries' or LDCs.
The conclusion of the AfCFTA comes in the wake of global trade facing a lot of uncertainty, with more countries becoming more protectionist and the global world trade order facing collapse due to rising tensions. Despite all this, Africa’s regional integration agenda remains at the core. The Protocol on Investments is meant to be continental wide project to protect and promote investments in Africa. The ultimate goal for the AU’s regional integration objectives should be to have one investment framework to regulate the whole continent.