Setting structure and priorities – ACP/EU post-Cotonou negotiations begin first technical round
By Elizabeth Morgan
The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU) met in Brussels on October 18 for the first round of technical negotiations for the post-Cotonou agreement.
It will be recalled that the negotiations officially commenced at a meeting in New York in September.
The ACP’s chief negotiator, Professor Robert Dussey, minister of foreign affairs, cooperation and African integration of Togo, attended. The EU side was led by Stefano Manservisi, director general of international cooperation and development in the European Commission (EC). The ACP Secretary General Dr Patrick Gomes of Guyana was also present.
In an article published on October 3, giving an ACP perspective, Minister Dussey wrote that the ACP/EU negotiations could only bear fruit if both parties took the road to prosperity together. He added that the ACP/EU partnership could only keep its promises if it did not negate the development efforts of the ACP countries themselves or cause the dismantling of their young industries and economies. In his view, the post-Cotonou agreement must give rise to a truly fair and just partnership improving on the existing agreement and elevating the relationship to a new level of partnership in the future.
In his remarks at the opening session of this first technical meeting, Dussey told the gathering that the ACP Group would be working to ensure that the objective of the new agreement would be to contribute to achieving sustainable development in all ACP countries through strengthening and deepening of the economic and political partnership as well as positioning the group as a more effective actor on the international stage. This, he said, would require alignment with the UN 2030 Development Agenda and the sustainable development goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the UN Declaration on the Right to Development; continental and regional development programme, and the broadening of regional integration in the Caribbean and Pacific.
In identifying key issues in the negotiations there has been a tendency to focus on issues which are a higher priority for Africa. These include migration, trade, the influence of China, and the structure of the negotiations (approaching them as regions). There has been limited focus on the mostly small-island developing states of the Caribbean and the Pacific which have preferred the ACP to negotiate as a bloc.
For the Caribbean, I see key issues as those which build the economic and environmental resilience of the region. As demonstrated in recent times, climate change is a critical issue for the Caribbean. Stimulating sustainable economic growth is also important along with the role which the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) can play in expanding trade with the EU27. Development support also remains important especially as the EU has eliminated the European Development Fund (EDF) and as the CARIFORUM region has the most middle-income countries and remains highly indebted. Reducing crime and violence is also high on the list of priorities for the Caribbean.
Migration does not have the same level of importance for the Caribbean as it does for Africa. The issue for the Caribbean would be the ability of nationals from all member states, particularly service providers, to travel within the EU27 and to access these markets under less stringent entry requirements.
This first technical negotiating session was expected to agree on the practical modalities. From the EU and ACP negotiating mandates, the two sides would agree on the structure and strategic priorities. If these negotiations are to be completed by July 2019, as proposed by the EU, then the ACP CARIFORUM must be prepared in all its aspects for a hectic negotiating schedule over the next nine months.
Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade and politics.