Photo: 43rd ACP-EU Council of Ministers Meeting on 31 May 2018 in Lomé. Credit: ACP Press - Photo: 2018

Why 79 ACP Countries and EU Must Enter Into New Partnership

By Robert Johnson

BRUSSELS | LOMÉ (ACP-IDN) – The Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of 79 States and 28 European Union (EU) members expires on February 29, 2020. Formal negotiations for a successor Agreement should commence by August 2018.

With a view to underpinning preparations and execution of the negotiating process for a successor Agreement, the Council of Ministers of the ACP Group of States adopted on May 30, 2018 in Lomé, Togo, the core principles, a common approach and a policy framework document.

In pursuit of the implementation of the Council’s decisions, the Committee of Ambassadors initiated a number of activities, to guide preparations for the negotiations.

These include outreach missions to ACP and EU Capitals, engagements on joint programmes with United Nations (UN) agencies, the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Integration Organisations (RIOs), Parliamentarians, private enterprise and Non-State Actors (NSAs), consistent with provisions and the acquis of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA).

As a result, the fundamental premise that underpins the preparations for the negotiations has confirmed a common position that the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, as a unified entity, shall engage the European Union Member States and European Commission in a single undertaking for a successor Agreement.

Following is Part One of the 42-page document, which explains why the CPA should be reviewed and what the salient features of the successor pact should be.

The pursuit of a comprehensive successor Agreement requires that the ACP-EU partnership be reassessed in the context of today’s economic and geopolitical realities, which are significantly different from 1975, when the first Lomé Convention was signed between then 9 EEC States and 46 countries from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

Since then, membership of the ACP Group has expanded to 79 countries, while that of the EU is currently 28, but to become 27 with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) by March 2019. These new members (on both sides) came with their own priorities, thus necessitating the adaptation of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement from time to time in order to better respond to emerging priorities.

At the same time, many ACP Member States are now categorized as Middle-Income Countries (MICs), while they remain burdened by serious structural challenges of inequality, poverty, underdevelopment and increasing vulnerability that also affect the Less Developed Countries (LDCs). However, the common thread binding ACP countries is their shared pursuit of sustainable development for their populations.

In the same vein, more recent EU Member States have not shared the historic and close economic and trading ties that the founding members of the EEC have with ACP Countries.

The EU’s enlargement eastwards has incorporated countries that have only recent ties with ACP countries, mainly as a result of their membership of the EU in the 1990s, and influence the direction of EU development policy in relation to the ACP Group.

Compounding this is the expected withdrawal of the UK from the EU (Brexit) by March 2019, and the impact that this will have on the future trade relations of ACP countries with the UK outside the EU regime.

The other fall-out from Brexit will be the loss of the UK’s contribution to the European Development Fund (EDF) and possible alternative instruments that may be provided in the post-Cotonou Agreement, based on the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021 – 2027. The implications of Brexit for ACP importers and exporters will need further elaboration and be taken into account in post-Cotonou negotiations.

ACP countries’ engagement with each other and with the rest of the world has undergone considerable transformation. They now engage more in South-South cooperation and regional integration, as seen in initiatives on customs unions, free trade areas and regional infrastructure projects. ACP countries also engage more and more directly with emerging global powers in the pursuit of lofty national and regional development aspirations.

At the global level, there has been increasing acknowledgement of growing interdependence and the need for cooperation in addressing the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment in a multilateral framework. This is exemplified by the many Summits and Conferences held under the aegis of the UN over the past two decades on inter alia, development in general, the environment, climate change, health, migration, youth employment and women empowerment.

The world’s development priorities continue to evolve, with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) being replaced by Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals ((SDGs).

Global attention has also focused on the need to address the financing requirements and gaps to accompany the commitments made in the outcome documents of High-Level Conferences. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of 2015 was the latest expression of determination to overhaul global financial practices and generate investments for tackling a range of economic, social and environmental challenges.

Some of the significant developments that are reshaping ACP Group dynamics and driving the need for change include: the rise of Africa in economic and political terms; significant changes in the Caribbean and Pacific regions; the shift in global economic and power relations; and changes in EU policy orientation.

The strengthening of African continental integration arrangements and their institutions has resulted in a heightened global interest in Africa (which currently has the largest number of LDCs in the Group). Its natural resource wealth, biodiversity and growth potential have made Africa the continent of choice for most investors.

In addition to uninterrupted and rapid economic growth over the past two decades, (which has been second only to Asia’s), a 1.1 billion labour force is projected to emerge in 2040, matching that of China and India. Improved economic performance has altered the manner in which its policymakers and partners view the continent. Nonetheless, significant economic challenges remain.

In the Caribbean, while there has been a general trend of economic growth and infrastructural improvements, largely anchored in an expansion of the services sector, significant societal challenges remain. Characterized by small open economies, diseconomies of scale, high levels of indebtedness, limited scope for further economic diversification, and increased exposure to environmental challenges, the region’s inherent and exogenous vulnerabilities have become more pronounced.

Despite gains in some areas of human development, poverty and income inequality persist, transnational crime complicates attempts to address citizen security, and youth unemployment remains at high levels.

These challenges are especially true for Haiti, which has least developed country status. Graduation to middle-income and high-income status for most Caribbean states, while welcomed, is fragile and also complicates access to development financing. For the region, the ACP-EU partnership continues to be a valuable part of the on- going efforts to advance national and regional development.

The Pacific Island countries have achieved real progress in the economic and social areas, but still face unique and shared development challenges shaped by their small size, remoteness and vulnerability to natural shocks. Their presence in the ACP Group continues to play a crucial role in giving them a voice at the ACP-EU level and in the global arena.

Shifts in global economic and power relations – including the rise of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey), CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa) and other configurations of emerging economies – have opened new trade and investment opportunities and markets, as well as increased competition for ACP resources. Asia, South America, Africa and Eastern Europe are experiencing growth and becoming important components of the global economy, thereby making them potential partners for the ACP Group.

Integral to the achievement of inclusive and sustainable growth is women’s empowerment and gender equality. The Cotonou Agreement in Article 31 considers gender equality among the key values of the cooperation.

Post-Cotonou will require commitment to mainstream gender in all operations and policies through a legal framework that would lead to justice and inclusion, economies that work for all, and sustaining a shared environment now and for future generations. [IDN-InDepthNews – 3 June 2018]

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Photo: 43rd ACP-EU Council of Ministers Meeting on 31 May 2018 in Lomé. Credit: ACP Press

This report is part of a joint project of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States and IDN, flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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