David and Goliath: argument against the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries

Original Publication Date: 
6 January, 2007


The European Union (EU) hides itself behind the so-called WTO constraints to impose on the poorest countries in the world, the ACP countries (ACPs) in which Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) accounts for 94% of the population, the drastic remedy of a bilateral free trade under the pretext that 34 years of non reciprocal trade preferences did not prevent them from becoming poorer. Actually many WTO provisions and a finer interpretation of the allegedly most rigorous ones, together with the WTO case law of its Dispute settlement body, would allow to maintain these preferences, taking into account that ACPs are the poorest countries, including most of those non classified as LDCs.

Despite the hesitant conclusions, to say the least, of most evaluations of the EPAs impact, because essentially financed by the EU, it turns out that it is in the interest of ACPs, if they cannot receive the WTO green light to maintain non reciprocal preferences with the EU, to opt for the alternative solution of the EU GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) and EBA (Everything But Arms) regimes.

If the ACPs were nevertheless forced to accept the EPAs, they can avail of large margins of manoeuvre to delay their signature and extend the length of the implementation period.

Above all the ACPs David dispose of a powerful sling to lay down the EU Goliath. Indeed not only the Cotonou Agreement does not oblige the EU to reduce its dumping and does not foresee a safeguard clause for the ACPs, but above all the EU cheats brazenly with the WTO rules, which allows it to practise a massive agricultural dumping highly detrimental to ACPs. Prosecuting the EU at the WTO against these EU breakings of the WTO rules and case law on the dumping effect of the domestic subsidies benefiting to its exported agricultural products would prevent the EU from exporting and would limit by the same token the EU interest to impose the EPAs on ACPs.

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