Back to Basics: The ACP-EU Cotonou Trade Agreement and Challenges for the African Union

By Udombana, Nsongurua J. | Texas International Law Journal, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Back to Basics: The ACP-EU Cotonou Trade Agreement and Challenges for the African Union


Udombana, Nsongurua J., Texas International Law Journal


America consumes $10 trillion worth of goods and services each year because it produces . . . $10 trillion of goods and services each year. Africa could produce and consume a lot more without America producing and consuming one jot less . . . . [T]he industrialised countries do not need to become any less rich before Africa can become a lot less poor. The wealth of the wealthy is not part of the problem.1

I. INTRODUCTION

On June 23, 2000, representatives from the European Union (EU) and seventy-seven African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries met in Cotonou, Benin to sign a trade and aid accord to replace the Lomé IV Convention, which had expired earlier that year,2 and to set "the seal on a quarter of a century of cooperation between a number of partners from North and South."3 The signing ceremony took place "[i]n a convivial atmosphere where hospitality, solidarity and above all hope prevailed."4 The Cotonou Agreement is the climax of "a progression from a principally economic and commercial partnership to cooperation at a more global level" that addresses political issues.5 It was "concluded for a period of twenty years, commencing on 1 March 2000"6-though it contains a clause that allows for its revision every five years and a financial protocol for each five-year period.7

This article examines the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement and the challenges that it poses to the African Union in particular and Africa in general. Africa has a population of 700 million but it accounts for barely one percent of the world's gross domestic product and two percent of international trade. Africa has, in recent years, embarked on several efforts aimed at building viable mechanisms of cooperation and partnership, including the establishment of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), in the struggle to extricate the continent from the scourge of underdevelopment and continued marginalization arising from globalization. The Constitutive Act of the African Union,8 for example, establishes the African Union (AU), inter alia, "to accelerate the process of implementing the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community in order to promote the socio-economic development of Africa and to face more effectively the challenges posed by globalization."9 In 2001, a year after the adoption of the AU Act, African leaders adopted the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as a strategic policy framework and socioeconomic development program of the AU.10 NEPAD's objective

is to consolidate democracy and sound economic management on the continent. Through the programme, African leaders are making a commitment to the African people and the world to work together in rebuilding the continent. It is a pledge to promote peace and stability, democracy, sound economic management and people-centred development and to hold each other accountable in terms of the agreements outlined in the programme.

NEPAD has been showcased as "the beginning of a new phase in the partnership and co-operation between Africa and the developed world"12 and as the African version of the Marshall Plan. Some scholars, however, have discerned fundamental differences between the original Marshall Plan-launched after World War II for the economic rehabilitation and reconstruction of war-torn Europe-and the African resurrected Marshall Plan, NEPAD.13 Adebayo Adedeji, for example, has argued that, despite the war, "[a] favourable human factor was still in place" in Europe when the original Marshall Plan was inaugurated, as was an "appropriate institutional framework and an enabling environment" for economic reconstruction.14 These factors, according to Adedeji, are lacking in the NEPAD blueprint.15

What, in any event, are the implications of the Cotonou Agreement on these African initiatives and processes aimed at Africa's economic integration, particularly as the AU Act is founded on the principle, inter alia, of "[p]romotion of self-reliance within the framework of the Union"?

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