Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization, has praised Ghana’s tenacious and forward-thinking efforts to digitally transform significant portions of the nation’s economy and the overall E-commerce architecture, calling it the future of trade.
DG Okonjo-Iweala referred to digital trade as the “wave of the future” and claimed that the WTO had been notified to start negotiating an E-commerce accord that would establish the regulations for digital trade as a result of the active engagement of nations like Ghana.
On Tuesday, April 25, 2023, the WTO boss paid a courtesy call on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House. She was in Ghana for a working visit as part of her first trip to Africa, which also took her to Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
Dr. Ikonjo-Iweala spoke with the President and said: “total global trade is about 31 trillion dollars. Of that, goods/merchandise trade is 25 trillion and services at 7 trillion. Within that services, digital services trade is growing the fastest, at about half of it, which is 4 trillion. And it’s growing rapidly at 8 percent per annum compared to the goods trade.”
As a result of this encouraging trend, she continued, “we are thinking that this is an area where our countries can benefit, and when we look, Ghana, as we mentioned to the Hon Minister in the morning, seems to be doing well providing some digitally traded services and professional services in business outsourcing.”
“There are many people trading digitally, in Ghana, we met many women today who are online and are doing digital trade, so one of the areas where we are thinking of working with our countries is on this issue of digital trade. We met to look at what are the challenges and constraints and opportunities because on the supply side, we have the International Trade Centre that can work and is working directly with some women here. “
Speaking on WTOs contribution to this, she stated that, the organisation can help with issues on certification, quality control of products, breaking into new markets, etc.
Therefore, she continued, “I just wanted to point this out to you that investing in the digital economy is very good because that’s going to be the wave of the future.”
She was quick to add that, WTO is already negotiating an E-commerce agreement that will decide the rules of digital trade and asked Ghana to participate fully towards its formulation.
On related matters of key concern to the Organisation, Dr Ikonjo-Iweala, appealed to Ghana to expedite action towards the ratification of Fisheries Subsidies Agreement which has found consensus after 21 years.
By this agreement, she stressed, “we were able to do away with 22 million dollars in harmful subsidies that lead to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and are actually negotiating a second phase of this agreement to deal with over-fishing and over-capacity.”
She emphasised on the importance of the agreement because 12 million people in Africa, depend on fisheries and Africa is losing 2.3 billion dollars from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and 3 billion from over-fishing and over-capacity.”
The agreement, according to her, will end the subsidies that nations provide, which in turn encourage the above-mentioned bad practices. It will also demand complete transparency in the declaration of fish populations and give any nation the freedom to report instances of unfair trade practices to the WTO tribunal.
Additionally, she discussed the global supply chain in relation to topics like COVID 19, debt financing, agribusiness with an emphasis on value addition and food security, WTO reforms, and trade-related environmental and climate change challenges.
While discussing the creation of the National Vaccine Institute, President Akufo-Addo emphasized Ghanaians’ great affinity for digitalization and their desire to work on the numerous projects that call for their active involvement.
In light of the difficulty of an outright ban, he also called for a more rational strategy to address the problem of the proliferation of plastics.