Options for Future ACP-EU Trade Relations
Improved export performance and greater trade openness can help ACP economies to achieve faster growth. They are also necessary as a stimulus to countries starting or re-starting a process of industrialisation. While this is primarily the responsibility of ACP governments, the significant changes that are about to affect ACP trade relations with the European Union will have a major impact on the trade environment and on the design and implementation of ACP economic and trade policies.
The recently-approved European Commission mandate for negotiation on a successor to the soon to expire fourth Lomé Convention retains specific, but differentiated, European trade policies towards the ACP. These are in the form of "regional free-trade agreements" (RFTAs). The EC proposal is based on three principles: First, preferential free-trade agreements are the EU's favoured strategy to interact with its "preferred" trade partners. Second, forming regions among developing countries is good for development and the EC is good at supporting this process, therefore free-trade agreements will be with regional groups rather than individual countries. Third, least-developed countries deserve a special and different treatment, and therefore should retain existing non-reciprocal trade preferences.