After three days of dedicated work to identify Liberia’s Post Accession Plan to promote trade facilitation and others, Delegates of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have described the country as well positioned to champion trade activities.Dr. Juneyoung Lee, Secretary of Liberia’s Working Party core representative of the WTO, shared her impression yesterday at the end of a three-day working session, which brought together representatives from the private sector, government and international community.Dr. Lee said, “We must say that the delegate is very impressed; Liberian citizens have set a remarkable example that is now referred to as the Liberian model. Liberia has extremely performed over some other governments in terms of WTO accession.”According to her, the commitment quality of Liberia’s accession is well secured in the Working Party’s Report (document that is a rule for the country to abide by), which is well appreciated in Geneva, Switzerland.“Turning to the post accession stage, we are equally impressed by the level of preparation and vision that has been set by the Liberian Government so far, especially hearing that the government has established its steering committee on the post accession, which is headed by two leading government institutions, including Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) and Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA),” Dr. Lee said.As Head of the Delegates, she said, “I want to congratulate all the citizens of Liberia for putting in a lot of efforts under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Minister Axel M. Addy, who is also Liberia’s chief negotiator of the WTO accession engagements, for playing such a cardinal role so far and also having good technicians.”She said Liberia has the potential and people who can produce beautiful fabrics, and other products.She, however, urged Liberians to have pride and the belief that such can be marketed when following international best practices and standards that they exhibited during the accession process. Dr. Lee said she believes now that Liberia is well positioned to be a champion of international trade, considering how it established a speedy system to complete the WTO process.She further indicated that the WTO has a unique way of making decisions among WTO members; emphasizing that Liberia as a small country will have a strong voice within any trade related decision under the WTO.“This aspect needs to be well understood by the people of Liberia to have the citizens aware of the benefits of WTO,” she said.Anna Varynik, Co-Secretary of Liberia’s Working Party, said the three-day workshop was meant to discuss Liberia’s benefits joining the WTO and also how Liberia can abide by those policies in order to maximize benefit, including international cooperation.“This is now a great opportunity for business empowerment and investment across the country. Joining the WTO also gives Liberia the opportunity to explore multilateral investments because it will benefit from capacity building, technical assistance,” Ms. Varynik said.Also speaking, Minister Axel M. Addy, who is also Liberia’s chief negotiator of the WTO accession engagements, said the conference is important as it allows stakeholders to get the full understanding of the implication of the commitment.“There have been stakeholder meetings around the WTO’s accession process since 2007 and sometimes specific sector meetings. And the concerns about Liberia have been the size of the economy and business directed for Liberia, which have already been taken into consideration in Liberia’s package,” Minister Addy assured.According to Minister Addy, there are horizontal packages that provide protection for citizens, investment, and domestic inventory among others, which he attributed to the delay in becoming member of the WTO.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
On Wednesday, December 30, 2009, the New York Times headline read “New Slip in Housing Prices Undercuts Fragile Optimism.” As disappointing as that may sound, I think that it is a sign of hope for green building. Sustainable building has suffered too long from slow acceptance. This is due, I believe, in large part to the drunken orgy of real estate speculation we were living through for much of the last 20 years. Why should anyone care about the efficiency, durability or health of their home if they were going to flip it for a big profit in a few years, or even months? All most buyers thought about was how big is the house and how fancy are the finishes. The bigger and fancier the better, with rarely a thought given to anything as mundane as the quality of construction or, god forbid, even building a house that is actually the size you need instead of yet another starter castle of 5000 sq. ft. or more. Add to this the mortgage industry’s penchant for loaning anyone with a pulse more money than they could ever hope to repay, and you have all the ingredients for the current real estate mess.Guilty as chargedI don’t mean to imply that I didn’t get caught up in some of the same mania as everyone else. I owned a big, albeit pretty green house at one point. As a contractor, I built and renovated very large and fancy homes, and some of them were not as green as they could have been, partially because the need to make a sale in order to stay in business trumped my ability to convince a client to go green. Recently, I have been pondering the fact that while it can be challenging for every contractor or architect to sell their client on building or renovating green, that is exactly the direction we need to be heading.Why settle for mediocrity?I once heard a very wise man make the point that code is a D-minus; anything that doesn’t meet the code is a failure. I would venture to say that many homes today don’t meet code, particularly the energy code, due to a combination of lack of knowledge and ineffective enforcement. Let’s start with the proposition that the codes should be enforced vigorously. That still just gets us to D-minus. What is keeping us from aiming for B or maybe even A in our projects? I believe that the lack of consumer awareness is what keeps us from achieving this. People spend more time investigating their cars, stereos and computers than they do their homes, mostly because they can objectively compare these products, but not the homes they are considering buying or renovating; and the construction industry, intentionally or not, has taken advantage of this. I will go out on a limb here and say that the vast majority of residential construction is of very poor quality, particularly in terms of green building. Homes are complex machines that must be designed and assembled as such. Instead, they are (mostly) designed and built by people who have little communication with each other through the process, many of whom don’t even speak the same language. Insulation, air sealing, moisture control and HVAC systems are thrown together with little thought of how they interact with each other, leaving us with inefficient, unhealthy and failing buildings.Quality can (and should) equal greenWe need to convince homeowners that real quality—buildings that are designed and built as a system, in consideration with the environment and their impact on society—is more important than size and fancy finishes. That is where I think the collapse of the real estate market will help green building. Since homes are no longer short-term commodities, owners must start thinking about holding onto them for years, or even decades. They will need to take into consideration operation and maintenance costs. My hope is this will lead to more demand for real quality construction, which should lead to the understanding that green building doesn’t cost more than just doing it right. If you build crap, green costs more. If you build quality, green comes along with it. If we cannot get past accepting poor quality in our homes, then we don’t have much hope of making green mainstream. Here’s to hoping that people catch on sooner rather than later.