Francois Fouche gives us trade news titbits that made waves during the week and are of interest to us as a continent.

Global goods barometer reveals strength of trade recovery, depth of COVID-19 shock.

Agriculture plays a crucial role in food security, supplying the basic products that keep millions of people fed every day. 

In South Africa, the industry produces a variety of products, from beef and poultry to maize, fruit and vegetables.

The chart illustrates the most popular products agriculture and related services industries, according to sales data from the latest Agriculture Survey, 2019 by StatsSA.

Almost 50% of total sales were generated from animals and animal products in 2019 (accounts for 16%).

Poultry is also an important source of income. 

Not only does the agriculture industry depend on the sale of live chickens (5% of total sales), but it also generates income from chicken meat(10%) and eggs (4%).

The total value of sales related to chicken products (R58 billion) is not that far from the total recorded by the entire field crop sector (R61 billion).

Horticulture production, which is concentrated in the provinces of Western Cape & Limpopo, generated just over a quarter of total sales. 

Fruit (incl. grapes) and vegetables accounted for 23% of total sales and 85% of horticulture sales.

The Agriculture Survey, which covers the activities of commercial farms that are registered for value added tax (VAT), provides a rich overview of the finances of the agriculture industry, including data on income, spending and employment. 

The survey includes enterprises that are involved in the production of crops, horticulture products, animals and fertilisers. 

The survey, excludes forestry and logging activities, fishing, and fish farms.


A new era beckons: Business unusual at the WTO

For the first time in a long time, World Trade Organisation (WTO) delegates are talking about ways they can make a direct impact on the lives of people.

For decades, the WTO’s agenda has generally focused on reducing international trade barriers and making it more efficient and predictable for companies to do business abroad.

The entry of a new Director-General, with a vision of delivering tangible results for people instead of corporations, has led to a spirited debate over how the WTO can get Covid-19 vaccines to the people who need them most.

That debate gained new momentum this month after U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai made her bombshell announcement that the U.S. would support a temporary waiver to the WTO’s intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines.

Tai’s waiver decision, which briefly knocked over shares of Pfizer and Moderna, abruptly shifted the negotiating landscape in Geneva, where India and South Africa’s longshot proposal to shirk the WTO’s intellectual property rules was foundering.

But Tai’s about-face has not resulted in a change of opinion from U.S. allies like the *European Union, Canada, and Switzerland*, which continue to oppose a sweeping vaccine waiver and remain skeptical that it would do anything to help get more jabs to people in the world’s poorest nations.

On the other side of the fence are waiver proponents led by India and South Africa. But trade negotiators in Geneva say their latest waiver proposal is a non-starter because it contains a poison pill — a sunset provision that would empower any WTO member to simply veto the termination of the waiver in perpetuity, thereby making it permanent.

Seasoned WTO delegates say that provision is merely a negotiating tactic aimed at securing other concessions elsewhere. But such a strategy provides a poor foundation for negotiations that could ultimately backfire and leave waiver proponents empty handed.

Geneva is a town for negotiators and smart negotiators recognize an opportunity when they see it. The current U.S. administration is bucking precedent by siding with public interest groups over its domestic pharmaceutical industry.

With roughly 20 negotiating weeks left until the WTO’s ministerial meeting, vaccine waiver proponents possess a rare and dwindling opportunity. The big question is whether or not they’ll squander it.