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EU trade partnerships with developing countries

Briefing/policy papers

The EU’s trade relations with developing countries have changed considerably in the last decade; the preference system has become increasingly complex. Since 2000, the relation between trade and development has been one of six declared priority areas for EC development cooperation. The strengthening of multilateral rules in the context of the WTO has important implications for the conduct of EU trade policy. Revisions and reviews of trade initiatives such as the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), including the ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) amendment, and trade-related aspects of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement will determine the agenda, but WTO regulations now set the environment for bilateral trade agreements and, as such, shape negotiations. The Doha Development Round will influence the future balance of multilateral, regional, and bilateral approaches in EU trade partnerships. The lack of coherence between the different approaches in trade policy and between trade and other policies of the EU remains an overall feature.

This paper considers some outstanding issues:

  • How to reconcile the special status of the ACP Group with the EU’s obligations to the WTO?
  • How to reconcile special treatment for the Least Developed countries (LDCs) with EPAs based on regions of ACP countries?
  • How to reconcile the EU’s programme of extension of its regional arrangements to an increasing number of developing countries (to the ACP and others) with its support for multilateralism?
  • How to reconcile differentiated trading arrangements with development goals?
  • How to make the EU’s trade policy coherent with its development goals?
Ian Gillson and Sven Grimm