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Monday, 07 May 2012

Latest ACP-EU updates: EPAs, China's presence in Africa, and the CAP

Despite widespread criticism and negative prospects facing the EPAs in Africa, the Caribbean region appeared to demonstrate a better outlook,  at least when compared to the East African Community (EAC) and latest germane headlines.  However, some  concerns were expressed over the 2008 EU Cariforum Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe. “Trying to answer questions about the success […]is far from easy”, according to Dominican Today.  Although  it seems clear “that there are very large sums of money”  being made available by the EU and which are intended  to both  support regional integration and meet EPA requirements, “it is hard to find any evidence that use is being made of the trade aspects of the agreement other than in relation to the improved access it offers in the area of commodity exports”.
One of the topics raised last week was the impact of the BRICS on developing countries. Trade experts have once again sounded the alarm regarding growing ties between Africa and China. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, this reached $126.9 billion in 2010, while trade volume rose by 30 per cent year-on-year during the first three-quarters of 201.  According to an article by Daily Nation, Kenya, as one of China’s top five trading partners, has been the subject of complaints by some EU Member states representatives. They protest in particular their lack of access to President Kibaki. In the words of the author: “The trade volume between Africa and EU countries has significantly dropped, which is one of the reasons why diplomats are unhappy with the Kibaki administration […] In a way, these diplomats are under pressure from their metropolitan states to restore the lost glory of cosy African relations as the Chinese have clearly found favour with the Kibaki administration".
New EU development initiatives were also announced at the beginning of May. Following a high-level meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the EU has granted ClimDev Africa Initiative €8 million to support Africa’s response to climate change challenges. According to the press service of the EU delegation to the African Union, the grant agreement was signed at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)  this week. The contribution is part of the Global Climate Change Alliance funding, a programme in which the EU and the most vulnerable Developing Countries are working together to tackle climate change.
Moreover, and as a result of regular droughts, the EU announced that it will allocate Sh4.3 billion (around €39 million) to Kenya. Main areas of work will be health, nutrition, water supply, and sanitation, with a particular focus on women and children. The fund is part of "Supporting Horn of Africa Resilience (SHARE)", an EU initiative that is to improve disaster preparedness in the Horn of Africa.
There were those that claim, however, that the EU could be more helpful in Africa should it take further measures involving legislation: If new EU rules were to be introduced mandatory transparency for multinational companies, living-standards in resource-rich countries, which normally face high poverty rates, would be greatly improved.  Joseph Banga, a Congolese citizen who works for the International Alliance of Catholic Development Agencies (CIDSE), spoke of this to The Guardian and has urged the EU “[to] demonstrate commitment to Africa's development”. Mr. Banga states that both EU transparency and accounting directives, which are  to be adopted in the coming months, can change the state of affairs “if not watered down.”
The CTA –Brussels Office also reported on the latest debates at the 3161st Council meeting,  which focused on Agriculture and fisheries. Ministers discussed the reform of payments for farmers as part of the broader discussion on the reform of the EU's common agricultural policy. One of the key tasks of the reform will be to ensure that payments are well targeted and spend efficiently. Ministers also held a debate in the framework of the common fisheries policy (CFP) reform. Regionalization and transferable fishing concessions (TFCs), which are two of the specific issues in the proposal for a regulation on the CFP, were particularly discussed. A large majority of member states welcomed regionalisation as a flexible approach to adapt to the diversity of regions and countries in the EU. They considered the approach appropriate to tackle in particular multiannual plans but also technical measures. However questions subsisted on the best way to balance the empowerment of member states within the regionalisation and a model where the final decisions remain within a EU framework. Most of member states would like the last word to remain at the EU level in order to ensure a level playing field.
Furthermore, agriculture ministers were brought up to speed on the communication on promotion measures and information provision for agricultural products: a reinforced value-added European strategy for promoting the tastes of Europe.