ACP/EU post-Cotonou negotiations: Road to 2020

By Elizabeth Morgan

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

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Jamaica's chairmanship of the Council of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) ended on July 31, 2018. It has been a hectic period for Jamaica and the ACP.

Over the last six months, Prime Minister Andrew Holness visited Brussels; the ACP Committee of Ambassadors met regularly; the ACP and Joint ACP/European Union Councils met in Lome, Togo; the ACP/EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly met in Brussels; the ACP and EU Post-Cotonou Negotiating Mandates were approved and published; the EU budget communication was published; and the African Union (AU) Summit was held in Mauritania, among other activities.

We now look to the start of the ACP/EU Post-Cotonou negotiations most likely in September. August is Europe's vacation month and few, if any, meetings are held in Brussels.

As I review the issues, the main concern leading into September is the positions of the parties. The ACP, in its mandate, is supporting an all ACP negotiation with the EU. The EU, from my reading of their mandate, sees the negotiations in two (2) parts, Part I — an ACP component; and Part II – separate regional agreements (compacts) with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The EU, regardless of what might have been said in other fora, still seems to favour an all-Africa compact, that is with members of the AU and not just ACP members.

The AU favours the all-Africa approach and reaffirmed this position at the AU Assembly held in Nouakchott in Mauritania, July 1-2, 2018. The AU decided to hold a meeting of its executive council, including ministers responsible for ACP/EU relations, by September, in order to consolidate consensus on the African Common Position, the negotiating strategy, and elements of the agreement. The AU also appointed Carlos Lopes, of Guinea Bissau, development economist, as high representative to support member states in the post-Cotonou negotiations.

The AU would need to consolidate consensus as there seems to be different positions within the African group on the approach to the negotiations. Some African countries, such as Kenya and Namibia, seem to support all ACP negotiations. In a video report from the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation on July 24, Namibian President Hage Gottfried Geingob tells Prime Minister Andrew Holness during his working visit that the Caribbean and the Pacific should be fully engaged in the post-Cotonou negotiations. His remarks indicated a preference for the all ACP approach. So, Africa needs a consensus position by September.

The Caribbean and the Pacific are standing firmly behind the all-ACP approach leading to a single agreement. They want the ACP alliance to continue.

At the start of the ACP/EU Post-Cotonou negotiations, it will be necessary for the ACP and the EU to agree on a common approach to the negotiations – All ACP throughout leading to a single agreement similar to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement or a new format with a general ACP component and three regional negotiations leading to separate agreements (compacts). Those who were around for the negotiations for the ACP/EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), 2001-2004, will know whose positions will be dominant.

The ACP and EU will also need to agree on the structure of the negotiations, the issues to be addressed, and the schedule of meetings most likely alternating between Brussels and ACP countries.

Already countries are lining up to host, in 2020, the signing ceremony for the final agreement. I note that Samoa has signalled its interest.

We are, however, a long way from a signing ceremony, and much work has to be done in the next 15 months to conclude a post-Contonou agreement or agreements of benefit to all.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade and politics. Send comments to the Observer or elizabethmorganstliz@gmail.com.

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