Published on Monde diplomatique, by Ignacio Ramonet, January 2008.
The unimaginable has happened, to the displeasure of arrogant Europe. Africa, thought to be so poor that it would agree to anything, has said no in rebellious pride. No to the straitjacket of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), no to the complete liberalisation of trade, no to the latest manifestations of the colonial pact.
It happened in December at the second EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, where the main objective was to force the African countries to sign new trade agreements by 31 December 2007 in accordance with the Cotonou Convention of 2000 winding up the 1975 Lom’ accords. Under these, goods from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific are imported into the European Union more or less duty-free, except for products such as sugar, meat and bananas that are a problem for European producers. The World Trade Organisation has insisted that these preferential arrangements be dismantled or replaced by trade agreements based on reciprocity, claiming that this is the only way African countries can continue to enjoy different treatment. The EU opted for completely free trade in the guise of EPAs. So the 27 were asking African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to allow EU goods and services to enter their markets duty-free …
… This crucial victory is another sign that things are improving for Africa. In the past few years, the bloodiest conflicts have been settled, leaving only Darfur, Somalia and East Congo. Democratic progress has been consolidated and local economies prosper under the guidance of a new generation of leaders, despite social inequalities.
Africa has another asset in the form of massive Chinese investments. China will overtake the EU as one of the continent’s principal suppliers and could beat the United States to become its most important client by 2010. The time when Europe could impose disastrous structural adjustment programmes is long gone. Africa has had enough. (full text).