European economic slowdown a problem for Africa: WTO

ACCRA Sat Dec 3, 2011 10:37am EST

Men grade cocoa beans in a warehouse  Ivory Coast, September 22, 2008. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Men grade cocoa beans in a warehouse Ivory Coast, September 22, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Luc Gnago

ACCRA (Reuters) - The euro zone crisis will continue to hamper African countries' trade and economic growth because of the continent's dependence on exporting to European markets, the World Trade Organization chief said on Saturday.

"The European economic slowdown is a problem for Africa," WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told a news conference on the margins of an African Union conference for trade ministers in the Ghanaian capital.

Lamy said there could be a significant decline in the growth of African economies if the euro zone crisis continued to worsen.

"Africa is still dependent on trade with Europe, which is its first trade partner," Lamy said. "The order of magnitude in what you find in economic research is that -1 percent for Europe's growth equals -0.5 percent for Africa's growth."

Trade between the 27-nation European Union, the world's largest trading zone, and its former colonies stood at 278 billion euros in 2008, according to the European Union's statistics agency Eurostat. The euro zone comprises 17 EU member states.

African countries export commodities and other raw materials including timber, tobacco, cocoa, cut flowers and oil to Europe, as well as textiles, while importing finished products including machinery, chemicals and vehicles.

Lamy said African countries needed to focus on intraregional trade to mitigate the impacts of the crisis.

"I have no doubt that it will impact Africa's growth in years to come, which is one of the reasons why Africa has to try and become more dependent on other sources of trade than the EU market," Lamy said.

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