While the debate in East Africa on the EAC-EU EPA continues, with the UNECA warning of the dangers posed by the agreement to the structural economic transformation of East Africa, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the EPAs as ‘not right’ and possible in need of re-negotiation. A key issue will be laying the basis for EU trade agreements to contribute to the structural economic transformation of African agro-food sectors. This issue needs to be taken up in the post-Cotonou negotiations in order to:
- enshrine an EU commitment to the flexible and responsible implementation of EPA commitments in legally binding agreements;
- address the systematic bias against smallholder producers and small scale exporters which exists in design and implementation EU food safety and SPS control systems;
- extend the current EU regulatory initiative son UTPs to ACP-EU supply chains;
- revise the design of loan and investment support instruments to effectively meet the needs of local agricultural producers and agro-processing companies.
Read more “Can the Post Cotonou Negotiations Provide the Context for a Rethink of the EU’s EPA Policy?”
EU Agricultural Commissioner Hogan has called for investment to be mobilised in sustainable agro-food sector development in Africa to combat migration pressures. While an EU action plan is under development in this area, calls have been made for the EU to extend its planned regulatory initiative on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) to Africa-EU supply chains. Current widespread abusive practices by EU importers fall particularly heavily on smallholder farmers. Given its economic significance, this is an issue which the ACP Group could usefully take up in its post-Cotonou negotiations with the EU as part of the wider dialogue with the EU on migration issues. Read more “EU plans to invest in agriculture in Africa to curb migration pressured need to address UTPs in Africa-EU agro-food sector supply chains”
The UK has committed to extending in the immediate post-Brexit period the non-reciprocal duty free access granted LDCs under the EU’s current EBA initiative. However action was expected given the long standing UK support for duty free-quota free (DFQF) access for LDCs. The issue has always been whether current DFQF access enjoyed by ACP non-LDCs would be extended from 30th March 2019. This issue remains unclear, with the UK government solely making a commitment to explore options for maintaining existing trade arrangements. Read more “UK government commits to extending EBA access for LDCs post Brexit”
Trade Minister Davies reflections on South Africa’s experience of trade liberalisation, which, with hindsight it is held, moved too rapidly for the countries capacity to adjust, potentially holds important lessons for ACP countries as they move towards the implementation of the EPAs concluded with the EU. It suggests ACP governments need to work together to ensure EPAs are interpreted and applied in a flexible and differentiated fashion, which places centre stage the structural economic transformation needs of ACP countries. This will need to be a central component of the forthcoming ACP-EU post-Cotonou negotiations, as well as on-going ACP Ministerial discussion on EPA implementation. Read more “Need to restore differentiation in trade rules in support of structural transformation in Africa”
USDA highlights the EU’s continued use of protectionist trade tools in its agro-food sector. This boosts EU export competitiveness, which can harm ACP agricultural sectors (e.g. dairy and poultry sector development). EU practices contrasts sharply with EU policy prescriptions in an EPA context. This calls for the flexible interpretation and application of EPA commitments given the overriding importance of agriculture to livelihoods in many ACP countries. Read more “USDA Highlights EU’s Continued Use of Protectionist Tools in the Agro-Food Sector”
UK NGOs are critical of proposals to transpose current EU reciprocal trade arrangements into bilateral UK trade deals with ACP countries. UK NGOs favour a new ‘gold standard’ of unilateral non-reciprocal trade preferences which extends beyond current such arrangements. However it is difficult to see how such non-reciprocal trade arrangements can be reconciled with the UK governments’ over-riding preoccupation with maintaining and expanding access for UK exporters to non-EU markets via bilateral UK free trade agreements Read more “UK NGOs call for new gold standard UK unilateral preferential trade arrangement”
There is a lack clarity on the legal possibilities for ‘grandfathering’ existing reciprocal preferential trade arrangements into bilateral deals with the UK. There are also serious human resource capacity constraints on the UK governments ability to simultaneously negotiate more than a handful of free trade area agreements. This is likely to require a prioritisation of UK FTA negotiations, with smaller ACP countries potentially being left out in the cold. This suggest a need for a coordinated ACP initiative to establish a joint ACP-DIT working group to explore
a) the establishment of transitional unilateral arrangements to prevent any disruption of current ACP access to the UK market and
b) simplified modalities for refitting existing EPAs into bilateral trade agreements with the UK, including the addition of a range of necessary ‘EPA+’ elements. Read more “Capacity constraints and complexities of ‘grandfathering’ highlighted by Parliament Report”
The UK government sees clear commercial benefits in avoiding a disruptive cliff edge in trade relations with Africa, particularly South Africa, the UK’s gateway to Africa. There has been a surge of UK Ministerial visits to Africa. The UK appears diplomatic open to refitting EU EPAs into bilateral deals with the UK. The UK’s Africa focus risks leaving Caribbean and Pacific ACP countries out in the cold. The ACP group collectively will need to capitalize on the UK’s commercial interest in Africa to ensure existing preferential access to the UK is extended for all ACP countries from day 1 of the UK’s departure from the EU. Existing reciprocal arrangements can subsequently be refitted, with appropriate adjustments. Read more “Britain’s continued commitment to Africa post Brexit asserted in context of global drive for free trade”
The EU continues to seek ways of improving the functioning of agricultural supply chains, so the agricultural base in the EU is not undermined by unequal power relationships within supply chains. In November 2017 an especially convened Agricultural Markets Task Force called for: new EU rules and enforcement mechanisms to address unfair trading practices; mandatory price reporting to improve market transparency and increased support to EU farmers to improve their position within individual supply chains.
Given the role which powerful multinationals play in global trade and the unequal power relationships this gives rise to across ACP-EU agricultural supply chains, there is a strong case for extending EU policy initiatives to strengthen the position of agricultural producers within individual supply chains to ACP-EU agro-food sector trade relations. Read more “EU Task Force calls for more action to strength the position of farmers in supply chains”
The ACP Secretary General has taken up suggestions for a 2 stage approach to future ACP-UK trade relations, with the transitional unilateral extension of current market access conditions being seen as essential in avoiding ‘a disruptive cliff edge’ in ACP exports to the UK. The inaugural meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers offers an opportunity to secure UK commitments in this regard.
ACP trade concerns around Brexit will need to be addressed independently of the state of UK-EU27 negotiations. However there are both UK and EU27 dimensions to the trade effects of Brexit on ACP food and agriculture sectors which will need to be addressed. This includes joint ACP-EU28 initiatives to avert any WTO challenge to necessary transitional market access arrangements.
The creation of a joint ACP-DIT working group could offer a vehicle for ensuring ACP interests are not lost sight of in the face of the multitude of pressing trade priorities facing the UK authorities. Read more “After Brexit: How to secure ACP interests”