Peter Draper recently participated in a preparatory conference for UNCTAD XIII, organized by the UNCTAD Secretariat in Geneva.
The theme was reviewing the role of government in a changing global trade policy landscape. He moderated the panel on business-government relations. The conference’s sub-text was rethinking UNCTAD’s role in the global trading system. There seems to be a desire to modernize the institution, and update its thinking on trade policy. Politically this translates into a battle of wills over control of UNCTAD’s policy agenda, with the G77 plus China resisting what they see as developed country dominance of the agenda. Ultimately UNCTAD needs to bring its trade division up to the excellent analytical standards of its Investment divisions’ renowned World Investment Report. To judge from the participants involved in this policy seminar, and the quality of interactions, that effort is underway and is to be commended, notwithstanding the stormy political waters ahead.
One of the issues that featured in the UNCTAD conference was African trade policies. This topic remains of enduring interest to policy makers and business alike. Unfortunately ambitions are not appropriately tailored to resources, and there remain many misunderstandings pertaining to how African economies really relate to the global trading system. These issues are addressed in Peter Draper’s podcast interview with the Institute for Security Studies which focuses on the utility of state capitalist models and associated trade policy protection for African circumstances.
Mzukisi Qobo continues to write provocative columns for Business Day newspaper covering various South African political economy topics. In recent weeks he has pitched into the rather sensitive debate over the nature and extent of business criticism of ANC leadership and economic policy, and the associated need for transformational political leadership.