ACP must not let the EU de­ter­mine its fu­ture

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - David Jes­sop is a con­sul­tant to the Caribbean Coun­cil. david.jes­sop@caribbean­coun­cil.org

ON NOVEM­BER 29, min­is­ters from the 79-mem­ber African, Caribbean and Pa­cific group of states – the ACP – will meet in Brus­sels.

There they are ex­pected to agree a set of prin­ci­ples that will de­ter­mine the ACP’s ap­proach to ne­go­ti­at­ing a suc­ces­sor ar­range­ment to the Cotonou Part­ner­ship Agree­ment.

This is the treaty which ends in Fe­bru­ary 2020, that cur­rently pro­vides the legally bind­ing ba­sis for the ACP’s po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, trade and de­vel­op­ment re­la­tion­ship with Europe.

Speak­ing to me about this re­cently, the ACP sec­re­tary gen­eral, Pa­trick Gomes, who was for­merly Guyana’s Am­bas­sador in Brus­sels, makes clear that the meet­ing is in­tended to con­tinue a process of re­newal, en­abling the ACP to be­come an in­flu­en­tial global player in eco­nomic gov­er­nance and pol­icy de­vel­op­ment, and a body bet­ter suited to the world in which it now finds it­self.

Such an ap­proach, he be­lieves, will not only en­hance the ACP’s value as a part­ner for the Euro­pean Union, but will also en­able it to be­come a voice for the global south at a time when in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ships are chang­ing.

BROADER PART­NER­SHIP

The in­ten­tion, he says, is to de­velop a much broader part­ner­ship with Europe when it comes to agree­ing a new re­la­tion­ship with the Euro­pean Union (EU). Apart from achiev­ing a new legally bind­ing treaty that builds on the Cotonou Agree­ment and all that has been achieved pre­vi­ously, a prin­ci­pal ob­jec­tive will be, he says, to use the re­cently The head­quar­ters of the Euro­pean Union in Brus­sels.

agreed UN Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) to pro­vide the frame­work for a new ACP ap­proach.

The aim is to cre­ate a fu­ture part­ner­ship with Europe not dom­i­nated by aid, but in­stead fo­cused on those Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDG) that the ACP group and the EU are

well placed to jointly de­velop a com­mon po­si­tion on. Such an ap­proach, he be­lieves, could en­able the group to place much more em­pha­sis on the so­cial sec­tor in ar­eas such as health, higher ed­u­ca­tion, re­search and in­no­va­tion, and en­cour­age in­traACP agro-in­dus­trial, po­lit­i­cal and de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion.

It would do so, Am­bas­sador Gomes says, in ways that would en­able the ACP to move up the global value chain, by en­cour­ag­ing trade, ser­vices and in­vest­ment be­tween the coun­tries of the south.

This would, he be­lieves, not only in­crease the rel­e­vance and ef­fec­tive­ness of the ACP as a group, but would en­hance the re­la­tion­ship with Europe by cre­at­ing a new north-south de­vel­op­ment model.

He makes that point that the pre­vi­ous de­ci­sion by the EU to proceed with re­gional Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ments (EPA) was dis­rup­tive and took up time within the group, mak­ing it seem to many like trade was ev­ery­thing in the re­la­tion­ship.

How­ever, what is now im­por­tant in de­vel­op­ing a fresh con­ven­tion is to agree to new ar­eas of com­pe­tence and a shared com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage. For ex­am­ple, a new agree­ment with the EU could in­clude pro­vi­sion for the de­vel­op­ment of the ‘blue’ econ­omy, mi­gra­tion – which he be­lieves the ACP has not fo­cussed enough on – as well so­cial is­sues, cli­mate change, and on con­flict pre­ven­tion and res­o­lu­tion.

He also says that it will be nec­es­sary to re­vise and up­date the Ge­orge­town Agree­ment of 1975 which cre­ated the ACP so as to re­flect the now more ad­vanced so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment needs of many ACP na­tions, with mid­dle in­come sta­tus and the UN SDG.

That said, it is clear that the ne­go­ti­a­tions for a suc­ces­sor to the Cotonou Agree­ment will be tak­ing place against a very dif­fer­ent and more dif­fi­cult Euro­pean back­ground than be­fore.

For Europe, new and dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties pre­vail to those that ex­isted when the Cotonou Con­ven­tion was signed in 2000. These in­clude deep in­terEuro­pean po­lit­i­cal con­cerns about mi­gra­tion, a ris­ing tide of na­tion­al­ism, ma­jor and di­vert­ing crises in the mid­dle east, a re­van­chist Rus­sia, and the UK’s de­ci­sion to leave the EU: all of which are caus­ing some EU mem­ber states and some in the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to ques­tion the rel­e­vance of a re­la­tion­ship with the ACP as a whole.

Al­though there is now back­ing for a legally bind­ing fu­ture treaty re­la­tion­ship, a po­si­tion sup­ported by the present French Govern­ment and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, there are also many cur­rents lines of thought as to what shape a new agree­ment should take.

For ex­am­ple, there is a pref­er­ence in some EU mem­ber states for a po­lit­i­cal and de­vel­op­ment di­a­logue based on re­gional dis­ag­gre­ga­tion – this would see the Latin Amer­ica and Caribbean re­gion as the ve­hi­cle for de­liv­ery – while oth­ers doubt­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of the ACP struc­ture, its fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity, and ca­pac­ity to im­ple­ment, sug­gest a much looser port­fo­lio of the­matic re­la­tion­ships.

How­ever, in a largely help­ful in­di­ca­tion of the pos­si­ble shape of a fu­ture agree­ment, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment has just passed a non-bind­ing res­o­lu­tion mak­ing clear what it ex­pects the EU to achieve in its ne­go­ti­a­tions with the ACP for a suc­ces­sor agree­ment to the Cotonou Agree­ment.

This in­cludes a com­mon frame­work, with re­gional agree­ments al­low­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that other coun­tries might be in­cluded; the plac­ing of UN SDG at the cen­tre of a new

agree­ment; strong mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nisms; fi­nanc­ing ide­ally be­ing brought within the purview of the EU bud­get; and a cen­tral role for civil so­ci­ety and the pri­vate sec­tor.

Af­ter nearly two years of soul search­ing by the ACP group, a re­port from an em­i­nent per­son’s group, re­gional con­sul­ta­tions, am­bas­sado­rial meet­ings and a high level de­bate within and be­yond the ACP, the chal­lenge now for the group is achiev­ing a sin­gle au­thor­i­ta­tive ACP po­si­tion set­ting out how its sees its fu­ture, and what it ex­pects from a suc­ces­sor ar­range­ment to the Cotonou Agree­ment.

If it fails to demon­strate sol­i­dar­ity and a com­mit­ment when min­is­ters meet, there is a real dan­ger that the EU alone may once again set its own, pos­si­bly quite dif­fer­ent agenda.

As the chair of the ACP Com­mit­tee of Am­bas­sadors, Len Ish­mael, who is the OECS Am­bas­sador to the EU, notes, there is a sense that ACP sol­i­dar­ity has di­min­ished.

In par­tic­u­larly telling re­marks she made clear re­cently that un­less a well­crafted op­er­a­tional plan is de­vel­oped by the Com­mit­tee of Am­bas­sadors work­ing with the ACP sec­re­tar­iat, and agree­ment is achieved at the Min­is­te­rial Coun­cil meet­ing, the space will be left open for Europe to dic­tate the terms of en­gage­ment.

On this, Am­bas­sador Gomes is very clear. He says that that the ACP must not let this hap­pen. He be­lieves that it is es­sen­tial that the Novem­ber Coun­cil meet­ing agrees ob­jec­tives so that the sec­re­tar­iat can be­gin to shape

the out­line of a ne­go­ti­at­ing man­date to take for­ward to ACP heads of govern­ment in prepa­ra­tion for ne­go­ti­a­tions with the EU that are ex­pected to be­gin in 2018.

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RE­GIONAL DIS­AG­GRE­GA­TION

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