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The EU-Africa Trade Agreements

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Regional Integration, Trade and Industry in Africa
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This chapter scrutinizes the successive rounds of EU-Africa agreements and the four-tier preference system of the European Union for developing countries, with special attention to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA). Full EPAs and interim EPAs are reviewed in terms of the resulting country configurations in Africa and their impact on the officially intended consolidation of African regional communities. The analysis concludes that the artificial EPA configurations do not correspond to any existing REC in Africa. If they last, they will have a very critical effect on Africa’s regional economic integration, all the more as they start to be emulated in other trade agreements between African and Northern parties.

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  1. 1.

    According to Yash Tandon, a trade expert who was close to the EPA negotiations all along, the main responsibility for why a genuine regional EPA approach did not materialize lies squarely with the EC. However, the unpreparedness and naivety of the African negotiators in Brussels was to blame as well. Unpreparedness also arose out of the reluctance of African governments to spend their own money on the necessary technical expertise (Tandon 2014: Chap. 3).

  2. 2.

    The ESA EPA is out for ‘deepening’ in 2021 which can obviously have no effect on the ESA5 countries as a group, because it is fictitious as such. The preparatory Sustainability Impact Assessment provides nevertheless a rich body of information on the EPA and on every single country (LSE Consulting 2020).

  3. 3.

    The CET is not yet fully operational due to a number of serious implementation problems, among them the need for some member countries to renegotiate WTO bound tariff rates; see also Coste and Von Uexkuell (2015).

  4. 4.

    Source: EC communication, 5 September 2014. However, South Africa is the only EPA country to which the EU only opens its market to 95%.

  5. 5.

    The government of Burundi voiced a fundamentalist critique of the EPA in reaction to EU sanctions imposed on it because of human rights violations.

  6. 6.

    The observation refers strictly to oil and gas only. The Nigerian government refused to sign the ECOWAS-EPA with the argument that it would hold back national industrialization efforts. The argument is not unfounded (see chapter below), yet the fallback of Nigeria on the EU GSP regime will work in practice as an additional resource curse mechanism: while exports of gas, oil, and agricultural raw produce to Europe will encounter a zero entry tariff, treated agricultural goods such as cocoa butter and paste and industrial goods will face escalating import duties, something the European Commission did not forget to mention (European Commission 2017c).

  7. 7.

    In GSP+ , additional tariff reduction is granted to the 16 or so beneficiary countries that have signed key international conventions. This would have brought the EU in an awkward political position when full tariff removal was offered under TTIP to the USA, which has not signed important protocols, inter alia only 2 out of 8 ILO fundamental conventions on labour rights.

  8. 8.

    This is the EU version of the overarching GATT/WTO waiver of the MFN clause, the Generalized System of Preferences, with the same acronym GSP.

  9. 9.

    Much the same would have occurred had Botswana been forced to sign its iEPA into law, in the interest of Botswana’s ‘beefocracy’.

  10. 10.

    Rwanda represents an interesting case in this respect. As an LDC, it theoretically did not have much to worry about. The government ostentatiously signed the EAC EPA, which has little formal effect as long as the majority of other EAC member states did not. The then minister for trade and industry Francois Kanimba made it plain why the government signed: as Rwanda is seriously striving to become a middle-income country by the 2020s, it wants to underline its political will to secure irrevocable contractual free trade relations with the EU prior to such graduation to MIC status. The government considers this to be part of the foreign investment promotion package. Looming graduation remains for the African ‘lions’ or ‘gazelles’ indeed one key argument for replacing EBA by something like EPA, as we will discuss below.

  11. 11.

    The South Centre as an Inter-Governmental Organization (IGO) is the leading think tank which exclusively supports the developing countries in their trade negotiations.

  12. 12.

    For a very similar conclusion see UNECA authors (Luke, Mevel and Geboye Desta 2020).

  13. 13.

    The attempts of the EC to help signature states harmonize market access offers in the iEPAs with the draft regional EPA do not in any way change the main conclusion: legally binding CETs no longer exist.

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Correspondence to Helmut Asche .

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Asche, H. (2021). The EU-Africa Trade Agreements. In: Regional Integration, Trade and Industry in Africa. Advances in African Economic, Social and Political Development. Springer, Cham.

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