The drastic change of the EU relationship with ACP countries in the context of international economic relations

Author:Ana Manero Salvador
Position:University Carlos III, Getafe, Spain

Purpose – The aim of this paper is to analyze the adjustment of relations between the EU and ACP countries to multilateral requirements. Design/methodology/approach – Has been carried out an analysis of the previous situation, the reasons and the result of the adjustment. To do this, they have been pursued literary and documentary sources. Findings – The European Union's... (see full summary)


The actions regarding development cooperation are probably those that have provided the European Union the greatest international visibility. Now then, these expressions are deeply heterogeneous and respond to a historical process by virtue of which, to the degree that new members participated in the process of integration, the development cooperation expanded itself geographically until being, as of today, totally global.

Despite this expansion, relations with ACP countries have always been special. This has led to the doctrine for distinguishing between “development cooperation relations and development cooperation policy” while the legal basis of both actions was different. Accordingly, although it was the 1992 Treaty of the European Union where these actions were set forth in a treaty – Title XVII of the EC Treaty – these provisions did not provide a comprehensive coverage because it excluded “such qualification that, without a doubt, is its most emblematic action in this area and that best represents the traditional regional conception of these relations […] The Lomé Policy” ( Sobrino Heredia, 1997, p. 108 ) that is the relations with the ACP States.

Brief historical reference: the Lomé model

Since the signatory states of the 1957 Treaty of Rome did not wish the adventure of the initiated integration to damage relations with countries and foreign territories, Part IV of this instrument contemplated a regime for association as well as the creation of the European Development Fund (EDF), the foundation of which clearly experienced modification due to these territories gaining their independence. Thus, as a consequence of the un-colonizing process and given that the legal basis contemplated in the treaty was not sufficiently clear; taking as a basis former Article 113, new legal instruments were negotiated that have strengthened a complex and controversial framework as is that on relations with ACP States.

Without a doubt, it must be recognized that the promoter of these relations was France since the first conventional instruments negotiated were with the new states emerging from France's ex-colonies, that is with the Associated African States and Madagascar known as EAMA, by virtue of which the Yaoundé I (1963)1 and Yaoundé II (1969)2. Agreements were signed. Both instruments contemplated the granting of a non-reciprocal trade preferences and financial assistance under the resources of the EDF II and the EDF III, respectively3.

With the membership of the UK, the geographical area was extended to developing countries participating in the commonwealth, which involved overcoming the previous French-speaking framework and led to the birth of a group of states, the ACP States, which has since been made up of a consolidated group, at the moment, of developing countries, which despite being located in far flung geographical zones, have acted as a unit due to the common characteristics that they share.

In fact, ACP countries consolidated as a group of states through the Georgetown Agreement of 1975. This treaty was signed by 46 States-37 African, six Caribbean and three from the Pacific – Today, the ACP countries total 79-48 African, 16 Caribbean and 15 from the Pacific. As Hall and Blake have indicated, the ACP group is predominantly African and Caribbean and traditionally the states have been divided into two categories. First, there were the ACP parties included within the Lomé Convention and the Georgetown Agreement. The second category included other states that had joined the Lomé Convention, that is Comoros, Seychelles, Surinam, Cape Verde, Saó Tomé and Príncipe, Papua New Guinea and Djibouti ( Hall and Blake, 1979, p. 113 ). Today this original distinction has no practical relevance, since all the ACP States are parties to the Georgetown Agreement, updated in 20034.

The creation of this group of states responds to the principal objectives that are stated in Article 2 of this Agreement and on one side, alludes to the need to proceed to strengthen their relations with the European Community with the objective of encouraging the execution of agreements and the achievement of their objectives, fundamentally by that with respect to the fight against poverty, the promotion of sustainable development and the participation of the ACP countries in the world economy and maintaining an action unit with the Community in function of their common interests and needs and on the other side, promoting relations between ACP countries in order to achieve these same objectives through south-south cooperation.

In this manner, the membership of the UK entailed the creation of the ACP group and the signing of the Lomé Convention, which involved overcoming the Yaundé agreements. So then, from 1975 with the Lomé I Convention5 relations began between the Community and the ACP States, giving rise to one of the most interesting expressions in the area of development cooperation between blocks with different levels of development.

There were four Lomé Conventions-Lomé I in 19756, Lomé II in 19797, Lomé III in 19848 and Lomé IV in 19899. The contents of these agreements are based fundamentally on the trade area, where it provided a practically total opening for the products originating from these states ( Casanova Domenech, 2006, p. 950 ) without reciprocity, except with respect to the protocols in which an ad hoc regulation is established for the trade of sugar, rum, bananas, beef and veal – mechanisms for the stabilization of basic products – those known as Stabex and Sysmin – and cooperation in the industrial area, as well as those which are financial and technical in nature. The last two, the Lomé III and Lomé IV, moreover included provisions relative to the respect of human rights, food assistance, social development, rural development, participation of the private sector in development strategy, as well as questions related to the debt and processes of structural adjustment.

Although, above all, Lomé IV and its review involved a turn in the direction, which until that moment, relations with ACP countries had followed, that change did not consolidate itself until the 2000 Cotonou Agreement10.

The Cotonou Agreement: the Economic Partnership Agreements are necessary

The Cotonou Agreement11 was signed in 2000 by the European Community and its member states with the ACP States12. Therefore, with the “Green Paper on relations between the European Union and the ACP countries on the Eve of the 21st century – challenges and options for a new partnership”13 and with the guidelines of the Commission ( ACP, 2002 ), new channels have been suggested by which the resulting relations must be guided basically, on the need to adapt the relations with ACP countries to multilateral rules and the to the lack of improvement of their economic situation ( Casanova Domenech, 2006, p. 951 ). The trade scope has incurred in a progressive change while, as will be seen later, for decades before, its adaptation to the multilateral trade system was a controversial question. In this manner, while the model maintained with Lomé did not produce the results pursued in relation to overcoming the situation of underdevelopment of the ACP countries and given the erosion of the preferences, the suitability of a radically change of the model has been suggested. Therefore, among the existing options, the conclusion of association agreements has been chosen, the purpose of which is the creation of free trade areas. On the other side, insofar as the coherence with the posture maintained in the multilateral system, the Community has suggested granting a most favorable treatment to the least developed countries (LDCs)14.

The trade relation is the central axis in which the relations with the ACP are going to be developed from now on. Although this area has been one of the most dynamic and that which has produced the most debates, today it is that which captures most clearly and completely, the new goals and the change in the trend in this relationship model. Therefore, the conclusion of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) (Articles 36 and 37) is envisaged in a period of eight years, the object of which is the adjustment to the multilateral trade rules of this relations model and in tune with that which the treatment has meant to developing countries after the Uruguay Round ( Manero Salvador, 2006a, p. 844, b, p. 98, 2008, p. 108 ), that is, with the presumption that its insertion in the international economy will allow them to overcome the situation of sub-development (Articles 34.1 and 34.2).

The Decision of November 28, 1979 – “Differential and more favourable treatment, reciprocity and fuller participation of developing countries” – adopted in the framework of GATT's Tokyo Round provides a permanent legal basis that rejects the application of the most favoured nation clause set forth in Article I of GATT, for the trade preferences established between states with a different degree of development. The material scope of the enabling clause is:

(a) Preferential tariff treatment accorded by developed contracting parties to products originating in developing countries in accordance with the Generalized System of Preferences (par. 2.a).

(b) Differential and more favourable treatment with respect to the provisions of the general agreement concerning non-tariff measures governed by the provisions of instruments multilaterally negotiated under the auspices of the GATT (par. 2.b).

(c) Regional or global arrangements entered into amongst less-developed contracting parties for the mutual reduction or elimination of tariffs and, in accordance with criteria or conditions which may be prescribed by the CONTRACTING PARTIES, for...

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