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Wednesday, 02 May 2012

Latest ACP-EU updates

The more the deadline to conclude EPA negotiations looms, the more concerns are raised. Last week, Brussels saw the latest EPA negotiations between the EU and West Africa, as well as between the EU and the East African Community. These meetings, which were intended to discuss issues at the technical level, yielded,  according to the European Commission, positive results, as “good progress” was made on several of the issues on the agenda. However, headlines from across the web pointed to yet another wave of criticism.
Oduor Ong'wen, the country director of the Southern and Eastern Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), published an article in which, as many of his other African colleagues, listed the cons of the EPAs.  Speaking in particular of East Africa, he agreed with the conclusions of numerous studies and pointed to these agreements as leading to disastrous consequences for African citizens. On a specific note regarding agriculture, he stated that farmers would face increased competition from Europe’s highly subsidized goods. The expected loss of government revenue would affect social welfare schemes and therefore citizens as well.
Guyana faces a better outlook
, as in the opinion of Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Directorate General for EuropeAid Development and Cooperation (DEVCO),  the country has pulled ahead of its Caribbean neighbours in the implementation of aspects of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). She has recognized that Guyana’s views on the EPA have been well represented during the negotiations, and said that there are signs the country is benefitting from the deal.
Some criticism was also levelled at the Fisheries Partnership Agreements
. Bob Dewar, a former diplomat who has served as High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador to Ethiopia and High Commissioner to Mozambique, stated that future deals can lead to a win-win situation if certain policies are put in place and stressed that  “the time of turning a blind eye is over”.
He pointed out that the 2012 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is a good opportunity to do better:  “The Europeans need real reform in their own back yard - dramatically rebuilding stocks, preventing over-capacity, over-fishing and damage to the environment. And the mirror of better behaviour should then be shone abroad, so that African and other developing countries get maximum benefit”. On the African side of the equation, he called upon African nations to work out how new Sustainable Fisheries "can boost good governance, food security and poverty reduction".
The so-called EU conditionality has been at the heart of the latest EU discussions. The EU will revise development co-operation with Zimbabwe depending on the political and economic reforms met by the country by August of this year. However, hopes on EU’s will to change its mind and lift the sanctions are faltering, as  the country did not succeed in addressing its democratic deficits in line with the Global Political Agreement (GPA).  Likewise, ministers  at the Council of the EU recalled their conclusions of 22-23 March 2012 on Sahel firmly condemning the seizure of power by force in Mali. The EU development cooperation with the country, which is currently on hold, will be resumed “in line with progress towards the full restoration of constitutional order”. Ongoing direct support to the population will continue as well as humanitarian aid.
Moreover, following the coup d’etat in Guinea-Bissau,  the Council on Foreign Affairs urged to an immediate reestablishment of the legitimate government, the completion of the interrupted democratic electoral process and the immediate restoration of constitutional order. According to the conclusions adopted during the course of a meeting last week “[t]he EU is ready to impose restrictive measures against individuals who continue to engage in or provide support for acts that threaten the peace, security and stability of Guinea-Bissau."
Speaking more specifically of the ACP Group, Secretary General Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas recalled the great potential of the ACP Group as an international partner during the course of a workshop recently hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. “We [..] believe that Europe will continually need the ACP to validate its evolving role as a global actor in international relations. As principal donor to the ACP, the EU has access to 79 member countries within its sphere of diplomatic and geopolitical influence.”
Regarding Africa, while the WTO maintains its long-standing opinion and says that trade among African countries is too low and “stagnant”,  experts at the South Centre, an inter-governmental think tank of developing countries, stressed  last week that trade is significant in manufactured goods and seems to be leading to a new path to industrialisation.
The Geneva-based South Centre, however pointed out that intra-African trade is low “in absolute terms”: "In terms of non-oil exports Africa's internal trade is almost on par with its exports to the EU […] the trade growth rate within Africa is the second highest after China and before the United States and the EU . Therefore, it is very promising, also in terms of the quality of exports. Most of Africa's manufactured goods go to Africa. So if the continent wants to industrialise, the market that provides the best opportunities is Africa, not China, the U.S., or the EU."
The CTA also updated its readers on the new report by OECD, presented to the Parliament last week. The report says that  EU development aid programmes run the risk of poor institutional coordination despite positive improvements in recent years.
Other articles of note regarding the development community, dealt with the growing ties between Angola and the EU, the claims of  Pacific islands for more rigorous tuna fishing measures or the new Global Outlook Report, which listed recommendations for the better promotion of sustainable consumption and production
The CTA-Brussels Office conducted an interview with the UN UnderSecretary General and High Representative for the LDCs, Cheick Sidi Diarra, who listed the reasons why Small Islands Development States (SIDS) are more vulnerable to external shocks than other developing countries. Speaking of the International Community, he stated that SIDS "need measures to be taken by development partners".

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