Cablegate: U.S. Move Toward African Wto Positions Applauded

Published: Thu 27 Sep 2001 03:08 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A) STATE 160506 B) STATE 161354
Sensitive But Unclassified, Please Handle Accordingly.
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Fourth Organization of African
Unity/African Economic Community Conference of Trade
Ministers September 22-23 in Abuja, Nigeria ended with
widespread appreciation for U.S. movement toward African WTO
positions on agriculture, intellectual property, the
environment, labor issues, and special and differential
treatment (as outlined in reftel A). While the conference
could not issue a final report (as much for logistical
reasons as substantive ones), all countries -- even those
which have traditionally opposed the U.S. at the WTO --
recognized how far the U.S. has come and that there now
exists a firm basis to bridge the remaining differences and
launch a new round. On the bilateral U.S.-Nigeria front,
AUSTR Whitaker met with National Assembly members on the WTO,
received support from the Vice President and Minister of
Commerce for a new WTO round, and got new promises that
bureaucratic problems that have to date prevented an
AGOA-compatible visa system for apparel exports would soon be
resolved. END SUMMARY.
At the OAU Ministerial Conference
2. (U) Working through OAU Economic Office Director Fred
Alipui, Post assisted Ms. Whitaker in scheduling her remarks
during the trade ministerial opening plenary session
(immediately prior to those by Nigerian President Olusegun
Obasanjo) and in distributing extensive USG WTO talking
points in English and French to all delegations.
3. (U) Mike Moore, Director General of the World Trade
Organization, gave a ten-minute presentation in which he
challenged the African nations to become more involved in the
global trading system and promised that, under his
administration, Africa would be a primary focus of WTO
activities. Likewise, AUSTR Whitaker,s remarks encouraged
African nations, as a substantial voting block, to take a
leadership role in setting the WTO agenda. She also outlined
U.S. movement toward African positions on WTO issues.
Whitaker reviewed tangible results of the first year since
passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Contacts
at the OAU and several delegates favorably contrasted the
prominent placement of AUSTR Whitaker,s remarks in the
opening ceremony and the extensive dissemination of the U.S.
position papers with the rather pro forma participation by
the European Union. The EU was represented by their
Abuja-resident Ambassador who read two pages of talking
points during a lightly-attended afternoon session.
4. (U) At the margins of the two-day ministerial, Ms.
Whitaker and Mr. Moore held consultations with Trade
Ministers and their delegations from Uganda, Kenya,
Mozambique, Ethiopia, Senegal, Gabon, Benin, Botswana,
Angola, Guinea Conakry, and South Africa.
5. (SBU) The Ugandan Trade Minister told AUSTR Whitaker that
President Musaveni is recalling his Ambassador from Geneva
and replacing him with one who will reflect shared African
and U.S. objectives in the WTO. Nigerian Trade Minister
Mustapha Bello, Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS) Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate, and Assistant
Secretary General of the OAU Ambassador Lawrence O.C. Agubuzu
all commented on the growing support within the OAU and
ECOWAS for a new round, and voiced appreciation to Whitaker
for the changes in the USG position.
6. (SBU) Nigerian logistical support, notably translation and
interpretation services, was poor and impacted the progress
of events. The early departure of Trade Ministers who would
not delegate authority to subordinates and a few hardline
hold outs on the issue of "consensus" for a new round, meant
that the final report was tabled until a special OAU Trade
Ministers, caucus to be held before Doha.
Business Outside the Ministerial Conference
7. (SBU) First in a meeting with National Assembly Speaker
Ghali Na,abba and later in a lunch with the Chairs of the
House and Senate Commerce Committees, Whitaker encouraged the
Nigerian National Assembly to play a more proactive role in
setting the nation's trade policy agenda within both the WTO
and on AGOA. Whitaker showed the Chairmen Nigerian press
reports that members of the National Assembly were advocating
Nigeria's withdrawal from the WTO. The legislators seemed
surprised by the tone of the press reports, claiming that
they had not, in fact, advocated such a position. The
Chairman did, however, express concern over Nigeria's
obligations in the WTO. Whitaker replied that African
nations, as a significant voting block within the WTO, stood
to gain from a new round at which Africans could voice their
concerns and play a leadership role in setting the agenda.
8. (SBU) In a separate meeting, ECOWAS Executive Secretary
Kouyate said that all, even the most recalcitrant ECOWAS
states, now see globalization as inevitable. Kouyate had
just returned from Botswana where he obtained USD 2 million
for training of ECOWAS member state officials in trade
issues, and was applying for further support from other
organizations including the regional USAID office in Bamako.
Though Kouyate only has three months left in his tenure, he
expected to leave ECOWAS with his program well established.
Each of the fifteen member states will specialize in some
area of trade in goods and services, and will be able to
represent the sub-region in a professional manner that was
not possible before.
Vice President and Commerce Minister Address WTO and AGOA
9. (SBU) AUSTR Whitaker, Moore and Poloff made a series of
calls on high-level Nigerian officials, including Vice
President Atiku Abubakar and Minister of Commerce Mustapha
Bello. Abubakar received with grace AUSTR Whitaker,s thank
you for Nigerian leadership in calling for a new WTO round,
but seemed more interested in AGOA issues. He agreed to
intervene as necessary in resolving problems with Nigerian
Customs in ensuring inspections by U.S. customs officers to
prevent transshipment as part of the apparel visa program.
He also asked if the U.S. could involve more states in the
gum arabic program. (President Obasanjo had also asked to
ensure that Yobe State would be made a full participant.)
Whitaker explained that the U.S. private sector, working with
USAID, had chosen Jigawa State as a pilot project where U.S.
contractors would work with the State government on
establishing a quality-control laboratory that would meet
U.S. import requirements. She emphasized that the laboratory
would be able to evaluate gum arabic originating anywhere in
Nigeria, cautioning against other states setting up
laboratories that might not meet U.S. standards. Whitaker
predicted that efforts to diversify gum arabic supplies away
from Sudan would increase, and that U.S. demand would be high
enough to support gum arabic growers in many Nigerian States.
10. (SBU) Minister of Commerce Mustapha Bello, host of the
OAU Ministerial, was pleased to hear that an earlier proposal
to sell Nigerian yarn to South Africa for apparel production
would be allowed under AGOA, and would require only a
certificate of origin. Bello also brought up demands from
Nigerian States, particularly Yobe, for greater participation
in the gum arabic project. Bello believed that the majority
of African states were behind a new round, but that the few
hardliners might preclude the consensus normally required for
the OAU to take a position. Both in the private meeting and
in the press opportunity that followed, Bello complimented
USTR Zoellick for his leadership in moving U.S. WTO positions
and expressed an interest in meeting the new USTR.
11. (U) Press coverage of the visit was extensive and
included the speech at the plenary session, calls on the
Speaker of the House and Minister of Commerce and the
departure press conference attended by 22 journalists at the
Lagos international airport on May 25. Coverage will be
reported septel as a part of PAS regular placement reports.
12. (U) AUSTR Whitaker did not have an opportunity to clear
this message before departing Nigeria.
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