The Committee had been asked by the Democratic Alliance to deal with information contained in a confidential audit report about the Arms Deal offsets. Some Members felt that they needed to see the document, even though some of its contents had been made public already, but also that any document presented to the Committee should go through due parliamentary process. A legal opinion would be obtained about the confidentiality of the report.
The Department of Trade and Industry briefed the Committee on the preparations for and events at the 8th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation. A broad consultation process had preceded the conference, and
In response to questions, Members were told that the African Growth Opportunity Act had not been discussed. Regarding the recent disagreement with
Business Unity South
Confidential document discussion
The Committee discussed a confidential document which an opposition Member had applied for the Committee to have sight of. Legal opinions had been obtained. The principle of attorney-client privilege was at play. It was recommended that the Committee treat the document as confidential. A copy of the report could be requested from the client of the legal company concerned.
Ms S van der Merwe (ANC) understood that the Committee served as a proxy for the Speaker. Any new document should go through the Speaker's Office. She asked what the origin of the document was, and if it had been tabled before Parliament. The Committee was open to the public and its confidentiality might be compromised if presented to the Committee without going through this process.
Mr G Hill-Lewis (DA) said the matter should be taken up with Mr D Maynier (DA). The contents of the document had been published in the press soon after it had been discussed.
Mr B Radebe (ANC) said that the Committee should not be used as a lobbying point.
Dr W James (DA) said that his party could not support the recommendation of the state legal advisor. There was an implication that the Committee would leak information. Members needed to see the document.
The Chairperson asked that the matter be deferred for discussion later in the day. She was still waiting for a legal opinion. There was still some uncertainty over which Members were representing the minority parties.
[Later in the meeting, the Chairperson had still not been able to obtain an opinion on the confidential document, and said it was unlikely to be forthcoming as it was the day of the budget speech. This opinion would be provided later in the week. The Parliamentary legal adviser later provided an opinion that the Committee should treat the audit report as confidential, and until the Committee has received permission to use the report, it was not recommended that the Department of Trade and Industry be required to answer to the report.].
8th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference: briefing by Department of Trade and Industry
Mr Xavier Carim, dti Deputy Director-General: International Trade and Economic Development, said that a full report had been submitted on the 8th Ministerial Conference (MC8) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), held in December 2011.
Mr Carim said that there was ongoing consultation with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). A conference had been held in
Mr Carim emphasised that MC8 was not a negotiating session for the Doha Round, although it was recognised that there was an impasse. Many developing nations wanted to see a pluri-lateral approach on a limited number of issues. The same nations also identified new issues for negotiations.
Mr Carim said that the main reason for the
Mr Carim said that the first of these decisions was the accession of new members
Mr Carim said that
Mr Carim said that new approaches aimed to extract greater access into the markets of emerging developing countries. Emerging economies were rising and dynamic, but still had profound development challenges. Proposals to introduce new issues in the WTO were premature while there was still unfinished business from
The Chairperson said that Members had been given a valuable opportunity to attend the MC8.
Mr G McIntosh (COPE) asked if the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) had come up for discussion, and if there had been any negotiations with the United States of America (USA). He asked if
Mr Carim said that AGOA had not been discussed. The issue would be raised in the future. For the last four or five years
Mr Hill-Lewis said that the Minister's input seemed to be more fruitful than negotiations at
Mr Carim said that the process of initiating anti-dumping tariffs was based on imports coming into the country below the normal price. If the trade commission believed that there was a case worth pursuing it could introduce preliminary duties. This would be a measure to protect the local industry. A thorough investigation would be undertaken. It seemed that the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) had found that dumping had occurred and had therefore imposed the duty. This happened between all countries. As economies opened up, there might be more such actions.
Mr Radebe echoed the Chairperson's comments on the conference. It was pleasing to see the respect which
Mr Carim thanked Members for their supportive words. His reading of the situation with the business world was that there was a great deal of consensus with the DTI's stance.
Ms van der Merwe asked how the Doha Round impasse could be solved. She asked how the Friends of Development could be organised. It sounded unwieldy. She asked for a definition of pluri-lateralism. She asked what could be achieved by parliamentary intervention.
Mr Carim said that there was debate about the status of
Mr Carim said that pluralism referred to agreements within or outside the WTO with a limited number of issues between a limited number of countries. This is what the
Mr Carim said that the Friends of Development had been developed to counter the threat to the developing world. Their agenda was based on issues such as multilateralism and a common stance on new approaches. There was a great deal of common understanding.
Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) asked what threat the current turmoil in the Euro zone posed to
Mr Carim said that the European Union (EU) had always been in the forefront of supporting the Doha Round. There had been reform in agriculture as part of a common reform process. They wished to see this locked into the WTO. The EU was prepared to make unilateral changes. The Euro crisis would not prevent the EU from backtracking on agricultural reforms. Further cut-backs might be needed.
Mr Carim said that the DTI would have to formulate a policy on the new approaches.
Mr Augustine Mandigora, Executive Director: Trade Policy at BUSA, said that one of the points highlighted by the DTI was the deadlock at
Mr Mandigora said that there had been a common view on what should be put forward at MC8. It was instructive to see the dynamics at play at the conference. It was also important that
Mr Mandigora said that business, government and labour were in constant discussion at NEDLAC. Many of the documents from NEDLAC were based on consensus. He hoped that BUSA could have a similar relationship with Parliament. Parliament played a critical role on trade issues. Another way forward was for the various constituencies within the country to make their voices heard. Developing countries were being more vocal, and organisations within these countries were also more outspoken. A high-level strategic discussion was needed on trade priorities involving business, labour, government, Parliament and civil society.
Dr James was curious on BUSA's views on greater private sector involvement in infrastructure development as outlined by the President.
Mr Radebe appreciated the opening up regarding the views of BUSA. When policy positions were taken by Parliament, such decisions were preceded by wide consultation. When
Mr X Mabasa (ANC) asked how multilateral platforms could be mixed with bilateral negotiations. Members appreciated the position put forward by BUSA. Engagement would make the country richer. He asked if BUSA did much regarding co-operatives. He noted the effects of actions by USA-led “coalitions of the willing” had made on countries like
Mr Selau asked how BUSA interpreted the term “business”. He asked if Mr Mandigora was representing BUSA as a whole or just one aspect.
Mr McIntosh commented on how open the South African economy was to international trade. He had a bottle of Appletiser in his hand and noted that it had been made in
Mr Mandigora said that it was important to get the private sector involved. Partnerships were needed in terms of funding rather than relying on government funds. Business had strong feelings on reviving the manufacturing sector. Not all of BUSA's initiatives had been communicated. ITAC had caused suffering due to an influx of manufactured goods and dumping. The system had to work well so that issues could be dealt with quickly. Business had given strong support to the Proudly South African campaign. BUSA had been vocal where trade concessions had been sought that could have harmed South African industries.
Mr Mandigora said that BUSA had a membership of more than sixty associations, and several Chambers of Commerce. Small business were the primary members of the Chambers of Commerce. He felt that the views of BUSA were as a result broadly representative of all aspects of business in the country. There had been a conscious effort to involve small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs). There was a dedicated resource working on their issues.
Mr Mandigora said that the mixture of multilateral and bilateral systems would be quite acceptable to business. One should not put all one's eggs in the same basket. He complimented government on consultative initiatives. The structure of BUSA made provision for specific project desks, the occupants of which were specialists in their fields. He would therefore prefer not to comment on the work of a different policy desk.
Mr Mandigora agreed that the economy was open. There was almost a backlash from business and labour. These organisations were less willing to accommodate imports. BUSA supported a fully inclusive multilateral system including all members of the WTO. BUSA had made a statement on compulsory participation in plurilateral systems. They opposed this concept strongly.
Mr Mabasa asked if there was ever an agenda point during their meetings to cover co-operatives.
Mr Mandigora could not answer this question but would submit a written response.
The Chairperson had been surprised to hear an individual businessman speaking in
The meeting was adjourned.
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