What Future for Lomé’s Commodity Protocols?

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    The Lomé Convention, a trade and development cooperation agreement between the European Union (EU) and 71 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), will expire on February 28th 2000. The current Convention (Lomé IV) covers 1990-2000 and negotiations for a new agreement began on 30 September 1998. However, nine months before Lomé-IV expires, there remains much uncertainty over the future agreement.

    The most contentious issues include the future of the four commodity protocols annexed to the Lomé Convention. Since 1975, these have extended duty free access to the European market for fixed quantities of exports from “traditional” ACP suppliers of bananas, beef/veal, rum and sugar. For many ACP states, these are the most valuable elements of Lomé, generating substantial foreign exchange revenue and employment, as well as other less tangible benefits. Despite only 29 of the 71 ACP countries benefitting from the protocols, the contribution to the foreign exchange earnings of the ACP group as a whole is considerable (9% of the group's total exports to the EU in 1998).

    Since Lomé IV was signed in 1990, the global context for ACP-EU relations has undergone substantial change. The pace of this change is likely to accelerate further during the next decade, with a new round of multilateral trade negotiations (the "Millennium Round") to be launched at the end of 1999. ACP states may no longer have "first call" on Europe’s development priorities as it continues to reform its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in preparation for its enlargement to include new members from Central and Eastern Europe. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty also committed the EU to harmonise its development policy towards all developing countries — including the ACP — in pursuit of "the smooth and gradual integration of developing countries into the world economy".

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