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Africa-Europe: When threats determine trade ties

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Africa-Europe: When threats determine trade ties

Africa is not embracing the EPAs because of fears that bigger EU companies could flood the continent with cheaper products, destroying nascent local industries.

Sixty-one heads of government and other top-level officials from African and European countries converged last March in Brussels, the de facto European Union capital, to discuss mutual relations.

After two days of deliberations, they issued a 63-point agreement laced with customary platitudes such as "We take particular pride in the breadth and depth of our partnership" and "We are convinced that the growth of our two continents will be mutually beneficial."

Although the leaders discussed such issues as ongoing fighting in the Central African Republic, democracy, regional integration, immigration, and development assistance, the elephant in the room was the flagging trade relations between Africa and Europe.

South African President Jacob Zuma, whose country is one of the EU's most important trading partners in Africa, did not attend the summit, in solidarity with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who refused to fly to Belgium because his wife, Grace, was denied a visa.

"I think that time must pass wherein we are looked at as subjects, we are told who must come and who must not come," said President Zuma. His boycott was one of many incidents in the seemingly endless trade talks between Africa and Europe.

European Commission President José Manuel Barosso reiterated Europe's preference for dealing with African countries as equal partners, but in reality only South Africa, the continent's most sophisticated economy, could be considered as such, says Christoph Hasselbach, editor of Deutsche Welle, a German broadcasting organisation.

Trade agreement talks began actively in 2000 after Europe and 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) signed the Cotonou Agreement on trade, aid and political relations.

Source: Theafricareport.com