Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Elizabeth Morgan | Put ACP/EU post-Cotonou Negotiations on front burner

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Students of the Montego Bay Community College tend to vegetables at the institution's demonstration plot at the Montpelier Agricultural Showgrounds in St. James.

By September 1, 2018, negotiations will commence between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States for a new agreement to replace the 2000 ACP/EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) expiring in February 2020. Among other things, the CPA is the vehicle by which Jamaica and other ACP countries receive development support from the EU.

The post-Cotonou negotiations will be launched at a momentous period in the ACP/EU relationship: 'Brexit' - the United Kingdom is preparing to withdraw from its EU membership. At the same time, the upcoming talks will take place against the background of an enlarged EU with most members from Scandinavia, the Baltic States, and Eastern Europe having no colonial links to the ACP. Other EU internal challenges and an unstable political and economic situation in neighbouring regions such as the Middle East and Africa which could directly impact the EU and the ACP. The UK is not expected to participate in the post-Cotonou negotiations.

Recall that developing Commonwealth countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific joined the then European Economic Community (EEC) relationship with former colonies when Britain joined in 1973. The former colonies of Britain, France, The Netherlands, and Belgium formed the ACP in 1975 and negotiated the first ACP/EEC aid and trade agreement, LomÈ I. When Spain and Portugal joined the EEC in 1986, other former colonies also entered the arrangement. In the Caribbean, Spain championed the entry of the Dominican Republic and Cuba. The ACP now has 79 member countries.

The ACP Caribbean was originally only CARICOM (Commonwealth) member states. Suriname and Haiti later joined. From 1990, the ACP Caribbean was expanded to include the Dominican Republic and Cuba, which are non-CARICOM members. Thus, the ACP Forum of Caribbean States (CARIFORUM) was formed for administrative purposes. Notably, Cuba is not a party to the ACP/EU CPA. However, Cuba, which has a separate agreement with the EU, could participate in the post-Cotonou negotiations.

Due to disputes in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which the EU lost, separate trade agreements, the economic partnership agreements (EPAs), were negotiated with the six ACP regions. CARIFORUM has the only comprehensive EPA, which will mark its 10th anniversary in October 2018. The EPA has its own institutions and is separate from the CPA.

 

NEW ACP POSSIBILITIES

 

With the Post-Cotonou negotiations looming, the ACP, as a group and within its regions, has been ruminating on the type of new arrangement it could have with the EU. In the meantime, the EU has consolidated its position on a renewed partnership with the ACP and presented its post-Cotonou negotiating mandate to the European Council for approval. The EU is proposing general provisions with the ACP as a group and separate agreements (compacts) with the three regions, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The country coverage would be beyond the current ACP membership. This could impact the configuration of the ACP as the EU is looking to include the entire African continent. The Caribbean could be extended to include countries in Central and South America. The EU has been visiting ACP regions to outline its proposal. The EU/Caribbean encounter with EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, was in June 2017 in Mexico, and in February 2018, Commission Director General Stefano Manservisi also visited Jamaica.

Although the ACP has been maintaining its position that the all ACP group should negotiate with the EU as, in the past, there have been indications that Africa could be adopting a Pan-Africa approach with the strengthening of the African Union (AU), establishing of the African Economic Community (AEC) and, recently, adopting the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). Africa, as a continent, is looking at creating a stronger partnership with the EU, its very close neighbour. Morocco is just 14 kilometres from Spain.

The CARIFORUM Council of Ministers met in St Kitts/Nevis (26-27 March 2018) to review the region's position. The meeting was attended by the ACP Secretary General P.I. Gomes and DG Manservisi. Ministers issued a statement reaffirming solidarity with the ACP. CARIFORUM will be participating in ongoing discussions in the ACP Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels to fine-tune the ACP position. The ACP Council of Ministers is scheduled to meet in LomÈ, Togo, between May 27 and June 1, this year. At this time, there will also be a joint meeting of ACP/EU ministers. By then, it is expected that the EU will have received approval of its negotiating mandate.

As previously reported, since February, Jamaica has been the chair of the ACP Council as well as the chair of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels. Jamaica's term ends in July.

 

LACK OF COVERAGE

 

Were it not for the syndicated column by David Jessop of the Caribbean Council in London, the ACP/EU post-Cotonou negotiations would have received little coverage in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

The trade and development relationship between the ACP and EU under treaty obligations has been in place for 43 years. Jamaica, with CARIFORUM, has benefited from this relationship through projects in agriculture, trade, infrastructure development, national security and justice, education, among others. Stakeholders in Jamaica and other CARIFORUM countries need to be informed and engaged in the preparations for these ACP/EU negotiations.

- Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade and international politics.