EU-ACP trade negotiations

The European Journalism Center (EJC) and the European Commission’s DG Trade co-organized a two-day seminar recently to discuss the trade between the European Union and ACP countries. 

The seminar also provided an overview of current EU-ACP trade policy and analysis of trade limitations. EJC journalists Mr. John Hammond, Cristina Romero and the seminar moderator Juliane Von Reppert-Bismarck of Mlex Market Intelligence, actively interacted with the ACP journalists from both English and French-Speaking countries.

As a matter of fact, trade relations between the European Union and countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions have been entangled by many arguments. In the wake of the global economic and financial crisis, ongoing negotiations over Economic Partnerships Agreements (EPAs) have led to often-heated debates over agreements today from Lomé to Cotonou to EPAs, as well as key issues such as accountability in trade and relevant case studies involving the implementation of EPAs until now

The seminar brought many speakers including Mr. Peter Thompson, the director of Trade and Development, Mr. Julius Sen, Senior programme Advisor, Mr. Ralph Kamphoene, Senior Advisor International Trade/GSP, Euro Commerce among others to discuss on various topic ranging from the overview of EU-ACP Trade Policy, From Lome to Cotonou to EPSs, Defining Accountability in Trade, Reworking Trade and Development Tools: Relevant case studies

Many traders from the Caribbean and Pacific Countries trading with the European Union, believe that the new trade agreement between the EU and ACP, though compatible with the World Trade Organization rules, was planned to the benefit of EU, as a result, they fear that could affect the economy of the ACP countries. 

One argument is for example prices of goods offered by the EU are very poor, compared to what they demand for their products. Another point that was presented is that developing countries cannot compete with their more advanced European counterparts.

The speakers lecturing on different trade subjects made many points clear to the ACP journalists. For example, it was explained that EPAs were not forced onto the ACP countries, but rather they were designed to meet the WTO rules. A visit to the Port of Antwerp revealed how goods from Europe are handled and shipped to the various destination including ACP countries. The port combines a long tradition break-bulk cargo, with a state of art infrastructure. Handling around 15 million tonnes of steel, forest products, fruit, food and project cargoes every year.

The Port of Antwerp boasts the capacity, productivity and full range of services you would expect from one of the world’s largest ports. Offering the most convenient inland connections by road, rail or barge, it isn’t surprised that the Port of Antwerp leads as Europe’s number one break-bulk port. 

At the end of the seminar and the trip to the Port of Antwerp, the ACP journalists were delighted and requested for a similar seminar in the future. In fact, it is important that many ACP countries take this advantage to come and visit these international ports and learn how to manage the high volume of workload in the future.