The African Union has appointed Carlos Lopes, a member of President Paul Kagame’s dream team in reforming the continental body and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, as the high representative for the post-2020 negotiations with the European Union.
The appointment of the Bissau-Guinean development economist was ratified by the Heads of State Summit in Nouakchott, formally opening the doors for engagements with the EU on a continental economic partnership agreement (EPA).
Lopes’ appointment comes barely a week after the European Commission received authorisation from the Council to open negotiations for a new partnership agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states.
The current agreement, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement — will expire on February 29, 2020 — and its provisions forecast the opening of negotiations on a future partnership by August this year, at the latest.
Reports indicate that continent’s foreign and planning ministers will meet by September to consolidate Africa’s position on the matter.
The Cotonou Partnership Agreement is the legal framework for relations between the EU and 79 ACP countries, signed in 2000 for a period of 20 years.
The current agreement was revised in March 2010, to capture the growing importance of regional integration in the ACP bloc; the interdependence between security and development; the global challenge of climate change; and the transaction costs of EU aid to the ACP.
The EUC recently welcomed the Council’s decision allowing negotiations with the ACP states in the coming weeks.
“We are ready to embark on a modern and dynamic partnership with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. This new partnership will be a powerful tool to tackle global challenges — from poverty and inequality to peace and security; from climate change to sustainable growth for all,” said Neven Mimica, European commissioner for international co-operation and development.
He added that the key objectives of the negotiations will be to secure a legally binding framework adapted to today’s realities, based on modern and forward-looking agenda.
It will also explore new ways of achieving key interests, better addressing global challenges such as inclusive growth, sustainable development, investment, job creation, peace, security and migration, human development, fundamental freedoms, human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles.
Europe is also seeking to build a powerful alliance in international fora, as the EU and ACP constitute more than half of the UN membership.
“We will develop a more tailored approach to ACP and draw lessons from 43 years of EU-ACP collaboration to nurture the development roadmaps in place,” the EUC said.
For Africa, this will be an opportunity to renegotiate the trade agreements with the EU, after concerns were raised about the trade imbalance that has bogged down several regional economic blocs.
The impact of Brexit on Africa will be discussed to ensure that member countries individually enter into trade partnerships with the United Kingdom.
The Coutonou deal was signed when the UK was still in the EU.
There have also been fears that the current trade deal with the EU has impacted Africa’s industrialisation agenda, and the AU is expected to push for more allocations of EU’s $5.82 billion fund set up to assist countries with expected economic shocks, which are signatories to the pact.