WSSD briefing by DTI; DTI products and services

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Trade and Industry

29 July 2002
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Meeting report

TRADE AND INDUSTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE


30 July 2002
WSSD BRIEFING BY DTI; DTI PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Chairperson
: Dr R Davies (ANC)

Documents handed out
 

Department of Trade and Industry and the WSSD
Department of Trade and Industry Offerings

WSSD website:
www.johannesburgsummit.co.za
New DTI website:
www.thedti.gov.za (comes online in early August)www.thedti.gov.za. The website has been enhanced to provide customers with greater access to the Department and its expertise. The new website will be operational from Friday 2 August 2002.

DiscussionThe Chair asked for the reason behind the decision to replace
www.dti.gov.za with the new www.thedti.gov.za.

Ms Bam replied that a branding review was conducted during 2001, and the findings of that study resulted in the decision to adopt the new website name. This new brand identity will be implemented in all marketing activities of the Department. This has an added advantage of allowing the Department to move away from previous perceptions of it and allows it to create a new image for itself, so that "the DTI" can become a recognisable brand in its own right.

In reply to the Chair, she said that users logging on to the old website would automatically be transferred to the new website.

Ms J Moloi (ANC) asked about present capacity of the Department to accommodate focus groups as it appears that the website and the measures recently taken only cater for those with access to computers.

Ms Molefe responded that this concern would be considered.

The Chair contended that two problems arise from the Department's "offering" type structure, especially on the website: firstly, the customer has to wade through "tons" of information and acronyms on the website before finding the desired information and, secondly, the offerings and the solutions they propose may not be effective.

He questioned the Department's actual ability to analyse the specific problem presented to it by a customer seeking assistance, and the consequent ability to identify the proper Department offering to address the customer-need type.

On the matter of information overload on the website, Ms Molefe replied that this concern would be considered. On the second question, she stated that the problem is that academics are often employed to perform this function but they do not always consider the full practical aspects. The alternative is to employ the services of business consultants who provide specific market-type information and proposed solutions to the customer-need type, with the result that a much more detailed information is furnished. The problem which then arises is that this process takes significantly longer.

The Chair stated that the Department would have to make a quick decision as to whether it wants to assist someone who approaches the DTI for assistance in starting a business, as it surely is inundated with countless business ideas that simply "will not fly". How exactly would this decision-making process operate?

Ms Molefe responded that the Department has to do some quick analysis of the specific matter raised by the customer, and then respond to that person as soon as possible. Should the response not be in the affirmative, it would however be "a friendly 'no'".

The Chair asked how the customisation of programmes in terms of the Integrated Management Systems (IMS), referred to by Ms Molefe, would operate to accommodate those who have approached the Department for assistance.

Ms Molefe replied that this is an important aspect of the service provided by the Department, and a decision has to be made if this analysis function should be done by the DTI or outsourced. This is essentially a capacity-related issue and would best be remedied by something similar to a sector summit, so that the problems presently experienced by the DTI can be identified and solutions found. The alternative would be to consult the companies and focus groups individually.

The Chair contended that if knowledge of the services offered by the Department is improved and the face-to-face centres mentioned by Ms Molefe operate properly, the consequent take-up would surely have to be in excess of the anticipated R300m. What are the budgetary implications of this possibility?

Ms Molefe replied that the results of market research conducted during 2001 indicate that only 5% of South African companies in fact access the Department. The total does not currently stand at R300m, and customers could also approach the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and Khula Enterprise Finance Limited (Khula) for financial assistance.

If the industry financing institution mechanism is used here, whatever form it may eventually take, the shares generated from the empowerment aspect could cause an improved take-up. Yet the Department itself cannot generate this increase.

Department of Trade and Industry and the WSSD: briefing
Mr Xavier Carim, Chief Director in DTI's International Trade and Economic Development Division, conducted the presentation that looked at: South Africa's objectives for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, its assessment of the progress made since the Rio Conference, its response since that conference, linking the WSSD and the Doha Declaration and the way forward for South Africa (see document).

DiscussionProf. B Turok (ANC) asked Mr Carim to explain "what's really going on" because "an enormous battle" is being waged to ensure that the important matters are heard and addressed, and to ensure that the WSSD is a success. Yet the language permeating the presentation is one of negotiation, whereas the actual dialogue at the WSSD should be much more serious and urgent.

The Chair added that the WSSD ensures that the developing countries are at least afforded a voice, but the reality of the matter is that the response to this is minimal. This has pretty much become the trend as far as international negotiations are concerned. The object of the WSSD must however be to change the current balance of forces, and a political message must be sent that strengthens the progress made by the Doha Conference. The WSSD cannot be allowed to simply reiterate the issues dealt with at that conference, but efforts should be made to illustrate the relationship between the arguments put forward at the Doha Conference and the struggle for sustainable development.

The WSSD must also be used to pressurise the developed countries to refrain from "twisting the arms" of the developing countries to the detriment of the latter, so that incidents such as the recent opening of fishing grounds - despite the fact that stocks were at a bare minimum - can be avoided in future. He asked whether there is a way for developing countries to argue that subsidised agriculture in the north leads to environmentally unfriendly techniques in agriculture, that this in turn harms the environment, hence this should be eliminated.

www.johannesburgsummit.co.za, but a package has already been assembled and will be made available to Members.

There were no further questions or comments and the meeting was adjourned.

 

SUMMARY


DTI identified the different needs of its various customers and the relevant services/products it provided to them. These services/products are currently being reviewed and a new departmental website will soon be operational to offer specific information and better service.

The ensuing discussion highlighted concerns about the website as not all have access to the Internet as well as the problem of wading through the high volume of material available on it. The question was raised whether the DTI services/products were sufficiently tailored to address the specific needs of each customer.

The briefing by DTI on the World Summit on Sustainable Development noted South Africa's objectives for the summit, its assessment of progress made, the link between the WSSD and the Doha Declaration as well as the way forward.

The discussion that followed was very pointed in teasing out the crux of the matters to be discussed at WSSD and what South African's role is as well as its negotiating position. The bargaining strength of the G77 countries was discussed, as well as the review of Agenda 21.

MINUTES
Offerings of the Department of Trade and Industry

Ms Portia Molefe, DTI Chief Operating Officer, noted that the following customer needs have been identified by the Department:
- investing in South African business,
- starting and operating a business, competing and growing a business,
- exporting and importing,
- protecting consumers and
- a working relationship between the Department and stakeholders.

The Department offers the following to address these needs: policy certainty, international market access, regulatory environment, registrations, authorisations and certification, information, advice and facilitation, incentives, rebates and finance and change programmes. These offerings were then detailed (see document entitled "The Department of Trade and Industry Offerings").

The Department is engaged in an "offering renewal process" to ensure that all customer needs are accommodated. Ms Molefe detailed this offering renewal process, and noted that the promotion and protection of black economic empowerment initiatives is of special significance.

New DTI website
Ms Lulu Bam, from DTI's Marketing Distribution, provided Members with a sneak preview of the Department's new website at


Mr Carim agreed that one would like to hear a stronger voice about the elimination of inequalities such as agriculatural subsidies in the countries of the north. He said that his presentation indicates the formal process taken, but there are also major underlying forces at work. It is important for developing countries, and especially South Africa as the host country, to use the WSSD to send out a very clear political message. This message could very well be that sustainable development is not only concerned with the environment, as is the position to which it was relegated by some of the European countries. The debate has now been shifted so that it is no longer possible to discuss the one without incorporating the other. The primary focus at the Rio Conference was poverty alleviation, and the progress made there can be incorporated into the WSSD as part of the focus on sustainable development.

It has to be remembered that the Doha Declaration is the culmination of three years of negotiation, and it is therefore difficult to pick out one aspect from that sound text and then use it in another context, such as environmentally harmful subsidies and export subsidies. It will however not be an easy task to incorporate this into sustainable development, and should this be secured, it could be done via a series of trade-offs with the developed countries in other areas such as trade. Thus the text and language agreed upon at the Doha Conference should be incorporated at the WSSD, so that the developing countries can get their message across.

South Africa has done well to identify the global programmes to address concerns regarding water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity. It has also identified the necessary and available resources and time needed to properly address these matters, as well as the relevant institutions that would play an important role in affording South Africa a realistic chance to meet its Millennium target goals. This will not be an easy task.

The approach adopted by the United States has been to withhold any financial commitments, so the end result will have to be achieved via a series of voluntary relationships between the various countries. In this regard South Africa is well advanced. The United Nations negotiating process is a difficult one, because of the imbalance in negotiation: that developing countries at different levels of development have to speak with one voice, which is a very difficult thing to do. Developing countries (the G77) have different social and economic interests, and may therefore have different agendas. Some may even try to ally themselves with the north on certain aspects of sustainable development and this will obviously cause divisions within the G77.


Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) asked if the lack of political commitment highlighted by the last point in Slide 5 of the presentation refers to South Africa specifically, or to the global arena generally.

Mr Carim replied that the intention is not to "point fingers" at particular countries but that is the general understanding, and the severity probably varies from country to country due to a lack of financial capacity or differing priorities. There is lack of sufficient political commitment throughout. One may, for example, question the commitment of the United States for withdrawing from the Kyoto Convention. One may also question the commitment of the European Union and Japan in their stand on fisheries.

Prof. Turok reiterated that the impression created by the sort of response offered by Mr Carim is that the WSSD delegation will focus on the actual text on the position. This approach has to be questioned because a country such as South Africa has an obligation to raise the pertinent and crucial issues. A decision has to be made as to the desirable position to take at the conference, and the text should then be employed or resorted to as a separate aspect. He said that the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism very clearly set out the important conflicting issues and South Africa's fundamental position.

Mr Carim replied that the text will not form the focus of the discussions, but the text is rather an important outcome of the entire process which also reflects the position adopted and reached thereafter. The text would, due to the nature of this type of process, be a compromise between competing interests and could very well contain ambiguities. The approach to be adopted is governed by its context, and the first battle has to be aimed at ensuring the WSSD is not restricted to or regarded as an environmental summit alone. Thus its outcome has to be linked to the other important summits, and the Millennium declaration is important here as it relates to poverty alleviation and steps to be taken to remedy this problem. The delegation has to develop a working programme to reach this objective.

Furthermore, the WSSD has to be used to send very important political signals to the developed countries, including poverty alleviation and an intention to create a more balanced multi-lateral trade system that would allow developing countries to compete effectively on the global stage. Yet the WSSD is not the appropriate forum within which to engage in negotiations on these matters, as they would only be heard at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference in Geneva. The WSSD should instead be used to send very clear political signals as to what the developing countries hope to see at the Geneva conference.

The Chair stated that it has to be accepted that all these and related problems will not be resolved at the WSSD, and our expectations of the successes of WSSD have to be modest. Even if South Africa is not able to use the language of Doha it must still raise the pertinent issues, even if they may not be written down or agreed on. The WSSD will be used to make some contribution.

Mr Carim said that an additional consideration is the problem regarding the precise manner in which the negotiations are to take place, because the standard practice is for presenters to make their input and then sit back so that the Chair can make the final assessment. South Africa must, as the host nation, work towards a successful outcome at the WSSD and bringing everyone on board. Should it adopt an aggressive stance regarding certain issues up-front, it may well run the risk of alienating important partners. This should be heeded, especially in view of the recent global trend to move away from multi-lateral trade per se. Members are assured that South Africa has a clear idea of its position and the areas in which investments will bear fruit.

Prof. Turok expressed his concern at the dire picture painted of the clout of the G77 countries as the very opposite was expected, and requested Mr Carim to explain the reason for this outcome.

Mr Carim responded that a union of more than one hundred countries would undoubtedly have enormous bargaining strength if they had a clear strategy and spoke in one voice. Yet the reality of the situation is that within the G77, different countries are competing for different social, political and economic interests. The result is that some of the G77 countries do not align themselves with their fellow G77 countries but with the North instead, which ultimately weakens the total G77 position and bargaining strength.

The Chair requested Mr Carim to explain the financial implications of this development, mindful of the fact that that is not really Mr Carim's area of expertise.

Mr Carim reiterated that such matters do not fall within his area of expertise, but stated that the financial position of the various G77 countries differ, with the result that the overall position is not strong. Such matters are properly dealt with by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and this is were the real site of the struggle is located. Despite this, countries will use the WSSD to underline financial principles and arguments even though they are fully aware that it is not the appropriate forum within which to arrive at feasible solutions to such problems.

Ms Moloi requested Mr Carim to explain whether the Agenda 21 has recently been reviewed as its implementation and monitoring mechanism is fragmented, and how effective would this system be to properly assess the impact of the progress made by South Africa.

Mr Carim replied that he has not placed much focus on this aspect, but stated that the problem essentially is that targets have been set but the requisite action plans have not been devised, nor have the necessary finances and resources been identified and allocated. The result is that the targets form nothing more than a wish list. The Rio Conference established five principles, all of which have not been implemented, and these include developmental issues and Agenda 21.

The weaknesses in the implementation will be reviewed, such as the lack of political commitment, the monetary resources etc.

Ms Moloi requested Mr Carim to explain how the monitoring aspect, in actual practical terms, would be taken forward in the WSSD.

Mr Carim responded that this would fall under the rubric of government issues and there are numerous proposals regarding this very aspect. It would, in all likelihood, be built into the specific region and sector which has competence here.

Prof. Turok requested Mr Carim to provide Members with a comprehensive package of all the documentation circulated at the Rio and Doha Conferences and the Marrakesh Agreement, as this would better prepare Members for the WSSD.

Mr Carim informed Members that all the documents are available at

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