The Africa Trade Network (ATN) has rejected attempts to transform and extend the failed paradigm and agenda of the current Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) into a future relationship between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU).
The ATN said any future relationship between the ACP and the EU must be one that creates space and support for strategic initiatives in the ACP countries individually and collectively, to transform their primary commodity economies, industrialise, and adopt strategies for development based on the needs and priorities of the people.
A communique issued by the ATN after a two-day consultative seminar in Accra on the Africa-EU relations after the expiration of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) called on the ACP countries to rise above their obsession with aid from the EU, which was already diminished in value and has been transformed by the EU into a means of promoting European corporate i
“Instead, they must concentrate on delivering on their long-standing obligation to the citizenry of a vision and agenda for the inclusive, equitable and gender-sensitive transformation of their economies, driven by their own self-determined national and regional imperatives built primarily on their human and natural resources, and in a manner that best equips their societies to meet the challenges of our times,” the communique stated.
The consultative seminar
It was hosted by the TWN-Africa with support from OXFAM.
The CPA succeeded the Lomé Convention, first signed in 1975 and renewed for four successive times until 1999, and for which a quarter of a century defined the trade and economic ties between the ACP countries and the EU.
It is almost two decades since the CPA came into being. Its promise was that European aid, in the context of comprehensive reciprocal trade liberalisation and economic deregulation, and managed by politics of mutual respect, would contribute to modernise the ACP economies and deliver the proclaimed benefits of globalisation.
The EPA processes
According to the ATN, attempts to conclude the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), a key element of the CPA, got stranded over the EU's agenda that sought to open the ACP economies for the free entry of European goods and free operation of European investors, while undermining the capacity of the ACP governments to give preferential support to domestic products, producers and investors.
The Executive Director of the TWN-Africa, Dr Yao Graham, said the contestations around the EPAs and the CPA, as well as the broader development in the global political economy over the past 20 years, raises issues of equitable development that must be addressed as part of any possible post-Cotonou framework.
He said that for the 79 countries in the ACP, Europe remains a very important part of the political-economic regime within which the countries operate.
“The EPA threatened to pull us off in different regional directions, but we survived. The Post-Cotonou offers a chance for us, in terms of geography and political pattern, a return to a much bigger unity in terms of how the ATN works,” he said.
The Head of Political Economy Unit at the TWN, Mr Gyekye Tanoh, said if developing countries continued to deepen their integration with the powerful northern economies, as rapacious as they are, under conditions of simultaneously increasing trade and financial liberalisation, they may be piling up a mess.
“You are undermining the possibility of building and transforming productivity in your own economy. You are undermining the possibility of using all these tools to enhance competitiveness or to safeguard against global volatility,” he said.
“In fact, the only way of keeping up is through devaluation, impoverishing people and deflating domestic values assets,” he added.
The ATN has demanded that in the future the EU-ACP trade and investment framework should protect ACP producers and domestic and regional markets; respect the principles of non-reciprocity and special and differential rights; exclude the pressure for trade and investment liberalisation; and support the space of the ACP countries to formulate and pursue their own development strategies, and choose their own allies and formulate their own positions in international fora even at the World Trade Organisation.
“As free trade agreements, the discredited EPAs have no place in any future relationship with Europe. Thus, further planned or intended negotiations aimed at broadening or deepening the EPAs must cease,” it stated.
It added that the EPAs that have so far been adopted must not be implemented, while the ATN expressed solidarity with the countries that have so far refused to sign any form of the EPAs. — GB