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"According to researchers at URFIG, the initiative masks a deeper intention of the EU "to seduce least developed countries into giving in to the machinations of the World Trade"
Western experts analysing the deeper impacts of multi-lateral trade agreements under globalisation have warned African countries to be wary of the recently launched "Everything but Arms" EU trade initiative.
The initiative adopted by European trade ministers last 26 February authorises non-quota and non-tax free access to EU markets for all susceptible export products, notably agricultural produce from the world's 48 least developed countries, among which are 39 ACP states.
Advising caution against falling for the "bait," the experts qualified Europe's offer as a "poisoned gift" whose economic benefits for poor countries would be minimal in the current context of economic liberalisation.
Belgian political scientist Raoul Marc Jennar, who is among a team of researchers at the Research, Training and Information Unit on Globalisation (URFIG), said Friday that the modalities and long-term implications of the EU initiative fell far short of any significant economic gains expected by developing countries.
According to him, the move went against the logic of sustainable development, which entails independence and autonomy.
The EU proposal, Jennar observed, was based on the logic of free exchange in which the EU market would be opened without any quota and without any fixed prices for the African products expected to enter the EU market.
Whereas the existing trade regime with ACP states under the Cotonou Agreement offers a guaranteed quota and fixed prices for African products to EU markets, Jennar pointed out, the Everything-but-Arms initiative has neither price nor quota guarantees.
With it, the EU would be at liberty to fix whatever prices it deems best concerning for African products coming into its market.
Another contentious issue, according to the researcher, concerns the time frame within which the newly launched EU initiative is expected to come into force.
He notes that African countries would not see the EU markets opened immediately, but rather in stages phased over nine years.
For bananas, the market would be opened between 2002 and 2006, for rice between 2006 and 2009 and sugar between 2006 and 2009.
The researcher says that any real positive gains from the initiative would be limited.
Furthermore, he reckoned that the long period for entry into force simply reinforced the economic dependence of African states.
Jennar contended that the EU initiative put the final nail on the coffin to any instruments of market regulations and, in effect, an end to price-guaranteeing mechanisms signed within the framework of the EU-ACP agreements.
For him, Africa's weak economies still need some degree of protection due to price fluctuations on the international market as guaranteed by the EU-ACP Cotonou agreements.
Jennar warned that with no quota and price guarantees under the initiative, poor countries should expect low price returns and the loss of comparative advantage on a market where their products would be subjected to international price speculations.
According to researchers at URFIG, the initiative masks a deeper intention of the EU "to seduce least developed countries into giving in to the machinations of the World Trade.
They see it as calculated to smother LDC opposition to a new round of trade talks which they have for the last two years been resisting unless their trade concerns were addressed.
Jennar recommended that the different Free trade regimes that the EU sought to negotiate with different African regional groupings should also be studied deeply, as they offer the EU the possibility to impose trade demands that may not necessarily be of mutual benefit to the weaker African economies.
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