The fact remains that despite some welcome relationship building between Africa and the Caribbean in the past few years, the global trade and investment landscape is not always conducive to bloc thinking. Historical and cultural ties are intangible and important building blocks of any relationship, and it has led to a level of respect between regions and negotiators over the years that have to be acknowledged. But what happens when commerce overtakes culture and investment opportunities overtake history? The act of multilateral negotiation has never truly confronted how the inequities of the real world are brought to the negotiating table. It will have to address that, as developing countries themselves will need to start framing a response to what happens when the competition of the real world also impacts their well-curated solidarity.
This article examines the EPAs negotiating process in select ACP countries to highlight the fragmentation and dilution of ACP countries' negotiating positions. It outlines how the rigorous negotiation processes whittled down the ACP countries offensive interests and ultimately led to the hesitation by several ACP states to ratify the EPAs. The article concludes that EPAs are one of the factors that explain the low trade volumes between African and Caribbean countries.
Given the limited but promising trade and investment relationship between both regions, there is a dearth of scholarly analysis on the Africa-Caribbean economic relationship. This Symposium aims to address this gap in international economic relations scholarship through considered analytical pieces exploring aspects of this understudied relationship.
Post-Cotonou approaches to innovation require the technocrats to go beyond the jargon of ‘partnership of equals’ and change their own modus operandi: the future relationship must be based on co-production and the case of GIs is a testing ground for this. This would involve dedicating technical teams to work co-productively with farmers’ groups – women, youth, community-based – to understand the local issues that will impact any GI scheme in the regions. But it also means looking at new and novel products, such as cannabis, especially given the drive to legalise cannabis and in particular ‘medical marijuana. By extension, it means recognizing the importance of a development focused approach to the ACP and extending the scope of GIs beyond its current remit which has long-been defined by European values.
As we approach the expiration of the Cotonou Agreement in early 2020, the time is now for the Caribbean to enter into the negotiating arena with our loins girded with belts of truth about our reality. A reality that is characterized by simultaneous integration and fragmentation; a reality in which we are physically small but geopolitically large; a reality where our small size must be seen as buoyant, agile, proficient strength as we navigate the global arena. A reality where our mature and battered regional institutions must now be renovated and become fit for our future purposes.
Moving beyond the arguably false dichotomy between ‘North Africa’ and ‘Sub-Saharan’ Africa will require a transformative reconfiguration of Africa-EU relations, but I see this as a positive and progressive one (I’m not sure that the EU will, but perhaps the EU Commissioners in DG Trade can comment on that point!). Any future FTA with the EU must, I believe, ensure that African nations are properly integrated into the global economy and not just into the EU’s economy.
Cotonou came to disrupt that acquis in at least three ways. First, it abandoned the core principle of unilateral preferences in favour of reciprocity. Second, and more damaging, it jettisoned the issue of trade from its agenda, leaving it instead to economic partnership agreements (EPAs) that were to be negotiated at sub-regional rather than ACP level. The effect of this Cotonou decision in terms of the trade agenda was to effectively demolish the 79-country bloc and replace it with a patchwork of supposedly six sub-regional groupings. Thirdly, and finally, when all but one of the sub-regional groupings on the ACP side were unable to negotiate as cohesive units and reach EPAs at sub-regional level, the EU ended up signing interim EPAs with individual countries, thereby – in the case of Africa in particular – throwing a grenade onto the fledgling regional integration processes underway at the time.
Over the past two decades, a number of factors have disrupted the Cotonou acquis. The opportunity to regenerate the ACP-EU relationship on new terms requires the parties to respond to challenges at the international, regional and domestic levels. At the global level, we have witnessed the declining influence of the USA and the EU on the international stage as emerging economies, like China and India, gain more economic and political power. As the EU’s leverage is not as significant as it was when the CPA was signed almost twenty years ago, multipolarity may present an opportunity for the ACP countries to diversify their partnerships and forge new relationships with non-EU countries.
With over 100 countries involved, the revision of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000 is an extremely important endeavor that presents immense opportunities to all the parties and that requires careful negotiations. The Agreement will expire in 2020 and the parties are currently negotiating a new framework that is expected to reflect today’s socio-economic opportunities, challenges and concerns. This contribution looks at some of the strategic elements to consider when updating or amending investment-related provisions of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement.