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Trade talks set to disrupt Africa-Europe relations and poison the upcoming Africa-EU Summit

Briefing Note 58

November 2013

Bilal, S. 2013. Trade talks set to disrupt Africa-Europe relations and poison the upcoming Africa-EU Summit. (ECDPM Briefing Note 58). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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Talks towards free trade between the European Union (EU) and Sub-Saharan African countries could seriously sour the political relations between the two continents and potentially jeopardize their Summit next April 2014. After over ten years of negotiations, the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) are due to be completed over the next few months. Failure to do so by October 2014 – a deadline unilaterally set by the EU – will mean that some African countries will lose their preferential access to the European market. 

The challenge is that negotiations on EPAs, meant to be concluded on a regional basis, are still bogged down by some remaining technical issues that negotiators seem unable to overcome. In economic terms these bottlenecks are of limited value, in particular for Europe. But they have gained symbolic importance and have been captured by technicians. It is time to take more explicit account of the political nature and interests behind this EPA process, so as to encourage more strategic diplomacy. 

Read Briefing Note 58: Trade Talks Set to Disrupt Africa-Europe Relations and Poison the Upcoming Africa-EU Summit 

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EU foreign and development policyEconomic recovery and transformationBriefing Notes (series)Briefings and background notesACP Group of StatesEU-Africa Summit 2014Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)European Union (EU)TradeAfricaEurope