African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and regions are experiencing significant capacity constraints, which impede their ability both to negotiate economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) and to adequately implement an EPA.
Although these constraints are well acknowledged in Europe, the European Commission (EC) has been very reluctant to take this approach, despite numerous formal requests from the ACP to include development support as part of the EPA negotiations. The EC instead argued that (1) the EPA negotiations as foreseen in the Cotonou Agreement were about trade and trade-related issues only, (2) development assistance is already covered by the Cotonou Agreement through the European Development Fund (EDF) and lastly (3) that the European Commission does not have the mandate from EU member states to enter negotiations or agreements on development assistance.
Nevertheless, at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on 16-17 October, the EU Member States agreed to provide bilateral funds for Aid fro Trade (A4T) on top of the EDF administered by the EC (which the Council agreed in June 2005 to amount to EUR 22.7 billion for the 2008-13 period). A substantial share of such trade-related assistance (EUR 1 billion each by the EC and collectively by MS) will be earmarked for the A4T effort to support the EPAs currently being negotiated. However, it is unclear to which extent such resources will be in addition to all existing ongoing trade-related support provided by the EU to developing countries or simply constitute a re-packaging of existing aid commitments towards trade and regional integration objectives. In addition, delivery mechanisms and procedures need to be carefully designed to ensure the effective disbursement of funds. Indeed, given the operational weaknesses of the EDF (such as low levels of disbursement or cumbersome procedures) recognized by many observers, both inside and outside the European institutions, appropriate rules and procedures will be crucial for effective, timely and efficient delivery of Aid for Trade resources.
The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on 16-17 October 2006
Council’s focus on development and trade:
Commonwealth hosts meeting on ACP-EU negotiations
Ministers representing the six regional African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries’ blocks had a two-day meeting at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London as a measure for them to facilitate the negotiations.
Third ACP Chief Negotiators Coordination Meeting in Berlin on 30-31 October 2006 Ministers and Chief Negotiators of the ACP countries met in Berlin to discuss among each other major issues and politics of the EPA negotiations. The ACP representatives informed German Minister Wieczorek-Zeul and several high ranking officials from different German ministries about their main concerns and the development of the EPA negotiation process. The BMZ announced it would try to address development aspects in all facets of the EPAs during the upcoming German EU presidency.
Extended EPA deadline?
The EU Trade Commissioner Mr Peter Mandelson hinted that the EPA deadline could be extended but only with approval from other members of the WTO. “Our deadline to negotiate EPAs is January 2008 when the Cotonou waiver expires. We can be flexible – after all development is our goal, not deadlines. We should not flaunt the deadline, but equally we have no magic alternatives to offer, and it is politically unrealistic to think that WTO members would agree to extend the current waiver, and certainly not without a hefty price. But the key reason for moving quickly is not this – it is because the world is moving on and preferences are eroding – eroding permanently. It does the ACP no favours to cling to the past, as some NGOs want.” http://ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/mandelson/speeches_articles/sppm121_en.htm
Brief on Economic Partnership Agreements
Jointly prepared by the Commission of the African Union, and the Economic Commission for Africa. The brief contains background information on the EPAs; discusses key issues such as regional integration, coordination of the negotiation groups and alternatives to EPAs; and sets out recommendations for the way forward.
EPAs: fostering regional integration?
A presentation by San Bilal, ECDPM, at the European Parliament Socialist Group Conference on Regional Integration and EPAs on the 19 October.
EPA impact studies for West and Central Africa
Only available in French:
Oxfam paper: “Offering a Realistic Alternative: The EU’s obligation to provide alternatives to the Economic Partnership Agreements.”
This brief paper outlines the legal and moral obligation of the EU to offer the Pacific ACP an attractive alternative to the EPAs.
2. WTO negotiations
African Union Wants Trading Powers to Start Negotiations
The African Union has urged the group of Six (G-6) world trading powers to quickly restart the Doha Round trade negotiations if the hope of improving living standards and freeing the world’s poor from absolute poverty is to be realized.
TWN Report: “A development assessment of the current WTO negotiations”
Report by Martin Khor, Third World Network http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/par/mk_assessment_of_present_Doha_talks_sept_06.doc
FES Briefing Paper: “Suspension of the World Trade Round. Multilateralism, Global Governance, and Development Policy in Crisis.”
The author outlines the developments that led to the suspension of the Doha World Trade Round and identifies the issues that were contentious. He analyses the impact of several contended provisions on developed, emerging and developing countries. The concept and the potential benefits and limitations of Aid-for-Trade are being discussed. Finally, he looks ahead and explores scenarios for resuming negotiations.
For more extensive information on EPAs and the state of the negotiations, please see: http://www.acp-eu-trade.org
Source: EU-Africa e-alert – No. 3 / November 2006