Kenya: UN conference kicks off with focus on global trade

UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi

Former Trade minister Mukhisa Kituyi will this afternoon preside over the opening of the United National Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at KICC in Nairobi.

Top on the agenda is how to spur global trade to help pull millions of people from poverty. Dr Kituyi, who is the UNCTAD Secretary General said equitable taxation by big businesses is the only sustainable way to achieve growth.

“Whistleblower leaks such as the Panama Papers compound the distrust people have in political and economic institutions by revealing how international trade and investment is riddled with illicit flows, hidden transactions and tax havens, at times with the complicity of politicians,” he said.

Kenya loses about Sh100 billion a year through tax evasion, perpetrated by multinational firms – hampering any realistic growth prospects amid rising financial needs by the government.

Significant steps have been put in place to combat tax evasion – listed as the single largest hurdle to growth among the poorer countries.

Top among the proposals that are at different stages of implementation is a requirement that all companies with international operations report results for each individual country of their operations, as a means to easily detect tax evasion through avenues like transfer pricing.

Heads of State are expected at the week-long conference that comes after Nairobi hosted, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference, in December last year. Major agreements governing international trade were struck in the WTO meeting including a framework to eliminate agricultural export subsidies by developed economies and enhancement of export competition rules.

Kituyi said in a commentary published last week that it is important to ensure international agreements like the ones entered during the WTO meeting are not only mutually consistent, but also consistent with progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. UNCTAD is expected to find solutions to the slump in cross-border trade, which is primarily a factor of the slowdown in the developed countries including the US and the European Union.

Kituyi said developing nations should trade among themselves, rather than look to the traditional markets where demand is currently subdued.

“World leaders will deal with how to reboot global trade growth including through services trade, electronic commerce and regional agreements,” he said.

Agenda for the conference whose theme is “From decision to action: Moving towards an inclusive and equitable global economic environment for trade and development,” indicates four sub-themes for discussion in the various panels. UNCTAD estimates that there are 1 billion people in the World living in extreme poverty, most of them in Africa.

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