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Global trade negotiators meet in Kenya to sharpen skills 

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Investment negotiators drawn from developing countries met in Nairobi on Wednesday for an annual forum meant to increase their negotiation skills at a time when countries are engaged in multilateral trade negotiations to create regional-based free trade zones.

The negotiators said skills upgrade will also enable them to protect their countries from investors who take advantage of poorly done investments deals.

“We want to make sure that our negotiators are able to take care of national interests when negotiating investment or multilateral deals,” said Chris Kiptoo, the Principal Secretary for the State Department of Trade in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives in Kenya.

“We have seen an upsurge of cases where investors are filing expensive suits against governments because of various policy changes like environmental protection which they believe may disadvantage them,” said Kiptoo who is also Kenya’s lead trade negotiator.

“We must therefore make sure that our negotiators are keen at the negotiation stage because when such litigation is filed at the international level, sometimes the local laws do not count,” he added.

Kiptoo said such litigations, if won by the other party have the capacity to drain public resources through compensation, diverting money that could have been used for social benefit.

He said exchanges during the previous ten forums on trade negotiations had contributed to Kenya’s review of its trade policy and setting up of a modern investment treaty to ensure that investment, bilateral and multilateral agreements signed with the government are of international standards.

He said Kenya has also set up the National Trade Negotiation Council, a think-tank that is responsible for undertaking all of the country’s trade and investment negotiations.

Delegates attending the three-day 11th Annual Forum of Developing Country Investment Negotiators said the forum is helping ensure that developing countries are able to attract responsible investment while safeguarding their legitimate policy space.

The forum, they said, will help developing countries adopt a common agenda on some of the multilateral trade deals.

“Overall, these forums will increase the negotiating capacity of the emerging economies,” said Vincente Yu, the Executive Director of South Centre, an intergovernmental body which helps developing countries in capacity building on various issues like trade negotiations.

It also emerged that many developing countries are now cancelling or renegotiating investment treaties and multilateral trade agreements because they were done when their negotiators had little negotiating capacity, according to Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder,head of Economic Law & Policy at the International Institute of Sustainable Development.

“Many countries (are) now involved in multilateral negotiations to establish regionally based trading blocs. The pressure is on the negotiators to have the requisite skills,” said Bernasconi.



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