Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is making a major speech tonight to the Globalisation Institute, in which he lays out a vision for a pan-African trading bloc, with free trade between all African nations. You can read the speech HERE.
Mitchell reckons such a move could help to lift millions of people out of poverty. He pointed to figures showing that while OECD countries cut tariffs from an average of 23.7 per cent to just 3.9 per cent in the 20 years from 1983, sub-Saharan Africa only cut tariffs from 22.1 per cent to 17.7 per cent. African countries could get a massive economic boost by liberalising their trading arrangements, with gains up to three times as large as any that could result from the Doha round of world trade talks. Andrew Mitchell says:
"Astonishingly, many African countries impose tariffs on the import of medicines, and even Tanzanian-made anti-malaria bed nets.. These are, effectively, killer tariffs. For most Africans, it is harder to trade with those across African borders than with distant Europeans and Americans. In 1997, the World Bank found that countries in sub-Saharan Africa imposed an average tariff of 34 per cent on agricultural products from other African nations, and 21 per cent on other products. The results are clear. Only 10 per cent of African trade is with other African nations. Meanwhile, 40 per cent of North American trade is with other North American countries and 63 per cent of trade by countries in Western Europe is with other Western European nations. While North America and Europe have been getting richer through trade, Africa has been left standing at the touchline. The world has lifted more people out of poverty in the past 50 years that at any point in human history - but Africa is the continent that is being left behind. The lack of intra-African trade is missed opportunity. Africa's barriers are seriously undermining the continent's prospects for development. They are preventing specialisation between African nations, hindering productivity growth, and clogging up Africa's wealth creation engine."
I admit that this subject is not one I'm an expert on, but from what I pick up on the political grapevine, Andrew Mitchell has made quite an impact in this portfolio. It always used to be a cinderella portfolio but in recent years has crept up the political agenda for all parties.
PS Apologies for the lack of posts today. I did send a good one (or so I thought) from my Blackberry this morning on Prescott and Levy, but somehow it got lost in cyberspace.