Serving God's People in Africa since 1868

Seen from The South

Everything is connected 6/21: Europe – Africa Trade relations

Europe misses a unique opportunity to build new meaningful relations with African countries 


seen-from-the-south-1The SEDELAN has just received an excellent report by Maria Arena, Member of the Socialist Group of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA). It shares the views that SEDELAN has been trying to convey over these past ten years. We are pleased to publish it here.

Blinded by the advantages of their free trade policies, the European Commission is out to forcefully impose the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) on several African states.

Despite the numerous and repeated warnings about the dramatic effects of these agreements on most ACP countries (Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific), part of the political league, the negotiators from various the Member States, have played down their negative impacts on African population, while rhapsodizing the merits of their unbridled ultraliberalism.

It is now obvious; the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is about to succeed a real tour de force.  the ACP countries are forced into free trade agreements which the majority does not want! The European Parliament, for its part, is to state its position in mid-July in its International Trade Committee INTA, on the agreement concluded with the SADC countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland), whilst the European Commission hopes to sign partnership agreements with the East African Community (Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda) in the coming weeks.

The agenda is gaining momentum under the auspices of the European Commissioners who led its foundations of the EPAs and oversaw the campaign to make it a reality. The campaign messaging is far from being true because these agreements are exceedingly beneficial to European countries but detrimental to African countries’ economies. The untold story is unfolding before our eyes

The European Union, the world’s strongest economic community with nearly one third of the world trade in goods and services, has “subtly” managed to enforce its access to the markets of non-industrialized countries, which together account for less than 1% of world trade output.

The European Partnership Agreements have been up for negotiations since 2002 with the prime objective to put an end to the unilateral trade preferences granted to ACP countries by the EU since 1995 under the Lomé Convention.

Some quarters pretend today that these unilateral preferential agreements were in fact a concession made by the EU to the ACP countries. This is a gross misrepresentation of history. Let us be clear: these preferential treatments were given by the EU with the sole intention to maintain their exclusive relation with their former colonies and meet their demand for imports of raw material at a preferential tariff.

Whilst the Cotonou Accord of June 2000 foresaw the conclusion of the EPAs for 2007, it has taken until 2014 to see most of these agreements signed by the seven regions (West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, the South African Development Community, East and South Africa, the states of the Caribbean and the Pacific). So far, only the agreements with the Caribbean countries have been concluded and ratified.

seen-from-the-south-2The slow pace of the negotiations shows that, contrary to the statements by the Commissioners, the ACP countries do not see with the same eye these partnership agreements, and do not rubber stamp their meretricious conditions.

The new deadline imposed by the Commission is now been set for October 1st 2016, when six African states will lose their preferential access to European markets, if they fail to sign and ratify the agreements.

“The EPA straitjacket” as accurately expressed by the former Chief Editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Ignacio Ramones, is threatening the economic sustainability of African countries. The Economic Partnership Agreements have never been so unworthy of their name, namely partnerships negotiated with equal partners on equal footing. What we witness here is not the case. They are neither partnerships, nor “development tools” as held forth by the Commission and the Trade commissioner.

The blatant truth is that the EPAs will mulct its African signatories of several billion Euros in customs and duties revenue; in the long term, the EPAs will negatively impact the  development policies of African countries and will force them to trade on the conditions imposed by the European Commission, without reference to their actual economic situation, needs and priorities. As far as African exports are concerned, they will remain subject to the strict European trade rules.

Finally, what would the additional benefits be for the development of African countries, other than what Europe has granted them for the past 40 years?

By imposing its own pace and its own conditions in the talks, Europe is losing a unique opportunity to build new relations with African nations, whereby the old dominating-dominated relationship of the 19th century could finally have been relegated to the past. It is regrettable. And deplorable.

Koudougou, July 8th 2016

Maurice Oudet

Director Editor SEDELAN