free-trade-between-a-david-and-a-goliath-the-human-rights-implication-of-the-cotonou-agreement-on-the-economic-community-of-west-african-states

Ekeke, Alex Cyril (2017). 'Free Trade between a David and a Goliath: The human rights implication of the Cotonou Agreement on the Economic Community of West African States' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.

Abstract

The Cotonou Agreement is an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and Africa, Pacific and the Carribean (APC). Presently, the EU has concluded EPA negotiations with some  Regional Economic Communities in Africa within the framework of the Cotonou Agreement, one of which is the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Articles 36 to 39 of the EPA between the ECOWAS and the EU encourages Free Trade between the two regions. This means that the EPA will sustain export of raw materials from the African states while it allows high-value-added goods from EU to freely access the African markets. This is a departure from the preceding EPA between the EU and the APC States (Lome Conventions). An important feature of the Lomé Conventions is the non-reciprocal preferences given to the ACP countries for most of their exports to the then European Economic Community (EEC). This means that ACP countries may levy any duties they wish on EU goods coming into ACP countries without EU doing the same on more than 90 percent of goods from ACP countries entering the EU. The ACP countries, thus have a considerable advantage in trading with the EU. However, the Lomé Conventions were incompatible with WTO rule GATT (Article XXIV) which permits this type of EPA when the two countries or regional blocks enter a Free Trade Agreement, or under a General System of Preferences (GSP) arrangement. Hence the need for a new EPA.

This paper examines the human rights implication of Articles 36 to 39 of the EPA between the ECOWAS and the EU and argues that it will subdue the capacity of the African states from developing their indigenous value-adding processing industries. Furthermore, the elimination of tariffs on these high-value-added goods from the EU will deny the African states much-needed revenue for government expenditure on developmental projects such as health, education, and infrastructure. The African states will be dispossessed of a vital source of income for government expenditure on developmental projects such as health, education, and infrastructure. This will obstruct the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed in Articles 1(2), 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11 of the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in ECOWAS. According to the Human Development Index of the United Nation Development Program (UNDP), the EU is one of the richest regions with a very high level of human development. The African countries have much lower level of development and weaker economies than the EU. If these weak economies that are already incapacitated by poverty collapse and their per capita incomes further decrease, it will threaten the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) of millions in the continent of Africa.

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