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Why the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements are Likely to be Damaging for African Economies

Chukwuma Charles Soludo - April 2012

Chukwuma Charles Soludo is a Professor of Economics; and has served as Chief Economic Adviser to the President of Nigeria as well as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He is currently on the Board of the South Centre, Geneva; Chairman of Board of the African Institute for Applied Economics; and a Member of the Chief Economist’s Advisory Council, World Bank.

Africa is in trouble. Its future is once again on the table, and it is Europe that holds the ace. The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) spearheaded from Brussels are the modern day equivalent of the nineteenth century carve-up of Africa. At issue in Brussels is whether or not Africa can be allowed latitude to conduct trade, industrial and development policies for her own development or for the benefit of Europe. Only about 10 out of 47 Sub-Saharan African countries (SSA) have either signed or initialled EPAs so far. Trade ministers of the affected regions—the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries as well as trade ministers from other African countries as well as the African Union—have largely rejected the EPAs. Despite all of this opposition, and reported public protests in twenty countries against the raw deal, it seems all but certain to be rammed through. In private whisperings, not many Africans or policymakers are happy with the deal but there is a certain sense of helplessness.

Since 2002, the EU has been negotiating the EPAs with the ACP countries as a fully reciprocal trade arrangement to replace the previous non-reciprocal, preferential trade access of ACP countries to EU markets under the various Lome Conventions and the Cotonou agreement. The argument, according to the EU, is that such preferential access violated Article XXIV of GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs), and that the WTO (W...

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