It is important that the Global South countries and particularly African countries device approaches that aim at entrenching integration in their own regions. This is absolutely crucial now that African States have the ambition of increasing intra- African trade. Secondly, African governments need to approach FTA and EPAs with the countries in Global North with extra caution and with their development needs, economic situations, and integration ambitions in mind.
Economic Partnership Agreements
A focus on the ongoing Kenya-U.S trade negotiations is pertinent as a lens to rethink the trade and investment treaty making reform at the continental level in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (“AfCFTA”) (section 3). The authors conclude with concrete suggestions aiming to improve the drafting of the prospective Kenya-U.S FTA provisions.
The effective implementation of the AfCFTA can only be achieved where state parties are assured of the stability of their local markets. This article notes that one of the key ways to safeguard these markets is through the development of a coordinated response to MFN clauses which can only be effectively attained through the Council of Ministers.
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.
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.
This article contends that premised on being Africa’s major trading partners, economies such as the US, the EU, and China are likely to experience trade diversion when the AfCFTA comes into force. As a result of such potential trade diversion, the implementation of the AfCFTA could be hindered. It is only by addressing the interests of these economies that AfCFTA will foreclose the possibility of a “crisis of implementation”.
Thus, for purposes of AfCFTA sustainability, AfCFTA implementation mechanisms should: integrate inclusive and participatory decision-making process; retain policy space for national interests; and extend AfCFTA benefits to all society groups—women, youth, people with disabilities, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)—without comprising the sustainability of environmental resources.