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India, Africa to forge common cause against Western trade bullying

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New Delhi: India and the 54 countries of Africa are expected to join forces at a mega summit later this month to form a united front to counter perceived Western bullying, notably by the US, over global trade negotiations ahead of an upcoming WTO ministerial meet to be held in Nairobi in December.

Trade officials from India and Africa are already into negotiations ahead of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) being held here October 26-30, to firm up a joint front that will seek to protect the interests of developing countries in the face of Western pressure to succumb to laws seen as tailored to suit their interests.

The 10th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Nairobi on December 15-18, is likely to see the developed world led by the US and the EU in a stand-off against developing countries led by India, China and others, over protecting their interests.

The forging of an alliance between India and the 54 African countries assumes all the more importance in the face of two mega regional trading agreements being negotiated – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) among 12 countries including the US, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan.

Many of the developed countries of the two groupings are keen to see that the “high standards” of these agreements are imported into the WTO corpus.

India is concerned that the TPP and TTIP agreements, that it is not part of, may seek to set international phyto-sanitary standards and factory standards for goods that India and developing countries like it are not yet ready to measure up to.

The two US-led mega trade groupings, being aggressively pursued by the Barack Obama administration, are expected to go beyond WTO standards and protection measures for intellectual property, environment and labour. The standards they set up are also expected to put constraints on India’s pharmaceutical sector, which produces vital generic drugs at cheap rates for the masses.

Another alarming factor is that foreign investors can file complaints against governments for not adhering to standards or any other issue at dispute panels under a special mechanism as part of the mega agreements, which would put constraints on countries like India.

India and developing countries like in Africa are not yet ready to meet the high norms that the two trading blocs are seeking to impose.

The negotiations at the IAFS would seek to form a support base of partnership in countering such heavy-handedness from big blocs, said a source.

Besides forming a common partnership on international trading concerns, the India-Africa Forum Summit would also see India and the 54 African countries forming a partnership on global issues like reform of the UN Security Council for greater representation and on climate change.

The discussions on climate change are set to figure in a major way at the summit, especially ahead of Conference of the Parties in Paris next month.

Terrorism, especially in the wake of terror groups like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Islamic State, spreading their network and activities in the continent would also feature in a big way at the IAFS. Countering terror, sharing information and forging a united front would feature in the talks.

Skilling of their large burgeoning youth population, which is a matter of concern for both sides, would also be a major focus area of talks at the summit.

 

(Ranjana Narayan, IANS)

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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

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Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)