On 24 April 2017, Yentyl Williams, ACP YPN President and researcher on EU-ACP trade relations, presented at the French Representation to the EU, Institute of Research for Development and (FERDI) Roundtable on the Future of EU-ACP relations. Yentyl presented in the panel on Regional integration and economic and trade dimension alongside Koen Vervaeke, Director General, Africa; Shada Islam, Director of Policy, Friends of Europe; François Bockel, Director of regional cooperation and external relations of New Caledonia; and Yves Sommeville, Deputy Secretary General of the Walloon Federation of Agriculture (FWA), European Economic and Social Committee.
Yentyl presented three points on the new generation of EU-ACP trade agreements, and the Economic Partnership Agreements. She underlined:
- This new generation of free trade agreements must not engender economic weakness in the developing regions of the ACP countries. She recalled the words of Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, who/and aptly highlighted that “The challenge that faces developing countries is not merely the challenge of economic development, but the fact that in failure lies the danger of returning to a new dependency – a new kind of colonialism – deriving from economic weakness” (2014). Yet, there is tension between these agreements promoting further regionalism or fragmentation.
2. She asked whether these agreements can bring the necessary structural transformation to ACP economies, which would depart from a history of relations based on the development-underdevelopment dialectic, identified by Walter Rodney in his book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’. In 1972, Walter asked: “[…] by distorting our economies to fit in with the demands of the world market, the demands of which are not always compatible with the demands of our own development, are we not, in the process, depriving our economies of the capacity for a self- sustaining growth which is a precondition for development?” Yentyl asked whether the EPAs are the right tool, especially as they are pre-SDGs, and underlined that they will need to be effectively monitored.
3. Yentyl also highlighted the current landscape of shifting paradigms : (i) EU has published the results of its consultation and presented the likely future framework based on the three pillar structure, yet in other policy areas the EU is moving towards a more pan-African approach, which could side-line the Caribbean and Pacific regions. Therefore, the structure will not stand if one pillar is substantially stronger, but merely serve as a transitional agreement to an EU-Africa partnership. (ii) ACP side has published its own vision in the Waigani declaration, “to consolidate South-South and Triangular Cooperation for the socio-economic development of their peoples; Re-affirmed their vision to make the ACP Group the leading transcontinental organisation; more effective intra-ACP cooperation, while diversifying the ACP Group’s cooperation”. (iii) BREXIT is the new elephant in the room, but it offers leverage to those countries who want to leave the EPAs because of the fundamental change BREXIT invokes in future EU-ACP relations, and this is possible under Art. 62 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
On the subject of youth (Article 26 EU-ACP Cotonou agreement), and future EU-ACP relations, Yentyl made three points:
1. The College of Europe must establish scholarships for ACP students and encourage diversity promotion at the EU level;
2. At the parliamentary level, ACP YPN founded the ACP-EU JPA Youth Forum that has been institutionalised at the bi-annual JPA. However,there is lack of financing to ensure youth remain a part of this exchange resulting in a lack of sustainability and ownership;
3. At the level of the EESC, youth need to be integrated into the monitoring processes of trade agreements. Already, ACP YPN is an observer at the Cariforum-EU Consultative Committee, and have applied for full membership. This needs to be done for all the other EPAs, and why not for all trade agreements? ACP YPN already recommended this at the International Trade Committee of the EP.
In conclusion, Yentyl underlined that we need concrete steps to construct a future based on more positive EU-ACP relations: 1) to overcome historic critique of EU-ACP relations and 2) to be more inclusive, especially vis-à-vis young people who will inherit this agreement.
There is a lot at stake in post-2020 negotiations, and both the EU and the ACP needs to do some deep soul-searching in the short time we have beforehand.
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