By Obrien Kimani

NAIROBI, Nov 26 (NNN-KBC) — Attention is being focused on Kenya as the country prepares to host top global trade leaders and top government bureaucrats from around the world for the 1Oth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference here next month.

The Nairobi meeting, to be held from Dec 15 to 18, will hope to break a 14-year-old stalemate which has stalled the global trade agenda.

Kenya, which will become the first country in Africa to host the WTO meeting, is looking at breaking the deadlock and crafting a new trade agenda, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is spearheading local preparations to host the conference.

For the last 14 years, global trade has been held back by differences between developed and developing economies, led especially by China and Brazil.

Whereas the United States and the European Union (EU) view China as a developed economy, the Asian giant wants to belong to the category of developing economies where Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, Swaziland and other countries fall under.

In the year 2000, China joined the WTO and during the Doha world trade negotiations meetings it was considered a new member without much influence.

Today, however, China is shaping global trade and it is planning to expand its influence at the Nairobi meeting.

Some of the areas which the Nairobi meeting hopes to address include agricultural subsidies, environmental products and cross-border trade.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says delegates attending the meeting are optimistic that the Nairobi meeting will bring to an end the stalemate which has existed for close to 15 years.

Experts argue that the longer this negotiating stalemate endures, the more the WTO’s foundations will crumble, particularly the much-prized jewel in its crown, its the Dispute Settlement System.

Kenya is hoping to score a major victory by convincing WTO members to abolish restrictions on agricultural export to the European and the US markets. Kenya is the leading exporter of horticulture products to the EU.

The Nairobi Ministerial Conference meeting is expected to bring close to 7,000 delegates to Nairobi. — NNN-KBC