Normative Power Europe? Economic Partnership Agreements and Africa

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- by Andy Storey

Paper for presentation at the African Studies Association of Ireland conference, (Dublin, 3rd December 2005).

"We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future": thus did former Secretary of State Madeline Albright express her distinctive sense of American 'exceptionalism' in world affairs. The words are much quoted, and often mocked for their hubris. But a certain similarity of tone may be found in some recent writing on Europe's role in the world, rooted in a particularly admiring vision of Europe's identity and ethos. A colourful example is Jeremy Rifkin's 2004 book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream:

"The European dream emphasises community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustainable development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, universal human rights and the rights of nature over property rights, and global cooperation over the unilateral exercise of power" (Rifkin, 2004: 3).

On the back cover of the book, former EU Commission President Romano Prodi claims that "Rifkin's book mirrors the European soul". While not perhaps claiming that Europe has a soul, an article (first published in 2003 in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ) by two of Europe's leading philosophers - Jurgen Habermas of Germany and the late Jacques Derrida of France - does claim that Europe embodies certain distinctive and desirable characteristics. The first is a model of post-national governance, a means of reconciling national identity with a wider (in this case regional) identity which supersedes national allegiances and dilutes national rivalries. The EU, it is argued, provides a unique model for how people can live together simultaneously within and beyond nations, thus removing a perennial source of conflict between peoples.

The second claimed distinctive feature is a peculiarly European model of social protection:

"Europeans have a relatively large amount of trust in the organisational and steering capacities of the state, while remaining sceptical towards the achievements of markets... They maintain a preference for the welfare state's guarantees of social security and for regulations on the basis of solidarity" (Habermas and Derrida, 2003: 295) (1).

For Habermas and Derrida, while this 'social model' is distinctively European, Europeans can seek to transfer it to the global arena and imbue 'globalisation' with the idea of social solidarity currently exclusive to Europe alone. Thus, in summary, because of their distinctive perspectives on, and practices of, citizenship and social solidarity, Europeans can make the world a more civilised and safer place if they have the confidence and capacity to export their ideas and models to the rest of the world.

Normative Power Europe?
Aspects of these claims are reflected in the field of international relations in the work of Ian Manners, who stresses the concept of Europe exercising power in the world through its ability to influence (and partially set) global opinions and norms (Manners, 2002). Europe's normative power, Manners argues, needs to be set alongside the more traditional conceptions of military and civilian power. According to Manners (2002: 241),

"The EU has gone further towards making its external relations informed by, and conditional on, a catalogue of norms which come closer to those of the European convention on human rights and fundamental freedoms (ECHR) and the universal declaration of human rights (UDHR) than most other actors in world politics. The EU is founded on and has as its foreign and development policy objectives the consolidation of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms".

While recognising that good (stated) intentions do not always translate into good practice, Manners (2002: 241) nonetheless asserts that "the EU is normatively different to other polities with its commitment to individual rights and principles".

Manners identifies the core European norms as peace, liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, with 'minor' norms of social solidarity, anti-discrimination, sustainable development and good governance (though what precisely constitutes 'good' governance might be open to debate and is discussed further below). These norms are diffused through diplomatic means and also through the very procedures of EU membership and application - for example, states seeking to join the EU must move to abolish the death penalty.

Some empirical studies appear to lend support to Manners. For example, in their analysis of the trade and political agreement signed by Mexico and the EU in 2000, Syzmanski and Smith relate the insertion of a human rights suspension clause in the agreement to "The centrality of human rights as a European cultural norm" (2005: 178). Previous EU agreements with third countries had included political dialogue provisions around issues of democracy and human rights, but had not contained provision for automatic suspension in the event of violations. EU negotiators were, it is claimed, willing to abandon the agreement altogether rather than abandon huma rights principles (Syzmanski and Smith, 2005: 175). By contrast, the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and the US (and Canada) contained no reference to human rights (Syzmanski and Smith, 2005: 173). Syzmanski and Smith conclude that there may be "a growing acceptance of the EU as a force for long-term global peace, prosperity and stability through its use of principled co-operative development programmes with poorer countries" (Syzmanski and Smith, 2005: 190).

Other assessments are much less favourable. Forsberg and Herd (2005) are scathing in their assessment of the EU's policy towards Russia in the light of the Chechen conflict which, they contend, exposed "the limitations of human rights principles as a central organising principle" within that policy (Forsberg and Herd, 2005: 455). Instead, it is claimed, and especially after September 2001, the EU largely accepted the Russian characterisation of the conflict as 'anti-terrorist' in nature, and chose to concentrate on issues such as shared security threats, trade and investment (Forsberg and Herd, 2005: 468). "[R] ealpolitik state interests were promoted at the expense of the normative agenda" (Forsberg and Herd, 2005: 477). Simultaneously, the authors argue, the EU maintained the pretence of a concern for human rights by accepting Russian claims that abuses were decreasing, or, where occurring, were justified (Forsberg and Herd, 2005: 477-8).

A study by Lightfoot and Burchell (2005: 76) of the EU's stance at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development argues that the EU "remains some way short of a coherent adoption of sustainable development as an EU norm" (albeit a 'minor' norm according to Manners' categorisation); they find that corporate and trade interests worked to undermine stated EU commitments to sustainable development. In particular, "DG Trade is identified as favouring free market liberalism over sustainable development... whilst DG Agriculture is identified as not fully sharing the sustainable development norm" (Lightfoot and Burchell, 2005: 83). And the authors report allegations "that officials from DG Trade, along with their counterparts from the USA, ensured that the section on legally binding corporate rules... was deleted [from the Summit communique]" (Lightfoot and Burchell, 2005: 86).

Many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have long been highly (if implicitly) critical of any suggestion that the EU is driven by normative concerns. They point, for example, to EU requests (tabled in 2002) under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to 109 countries. Each such request involved asking the government of the country concerned to open certain, specified service sectors up to competition from EU firms. The requests largely originated from the European Services Forum (ESF), a European business lobby group (Corporate Europe Observatory, 2003). (2) While these requests were not initially made public, leaked documents obtained by the World Development Movement (WDM, 2003) led that organisation to draw conclusions about the EU's negotiating stance, including that the EU was targeting the poorest countries in the world in its pursuit of services market access for European companies and that the EU was targeting countries where "effective non-market based delivery systems are in operation" (WDM, 2003: 2), precisely because such not-for-profit systems limit the commercial opportunities available to European service exporters.

More recently, the WDM (2005) obtained further leaked documents suggesting that the EU was proposing compulsory, quantified service liberalisation targets be agreed at the Hong Kong World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in December 2005 (WDM, 2005). The EU is reported as seeking specific liberalisation commitments from developing countries in relation to 93 out of 163 GATS sub-sectors (WDM, 2005).

In the light of these and numerous other critiques, is there real substance to the idea of a Normative Power Europe in relation to how it conducts its external affairs, especially vis-à-vis developing countries? To what extent is EU external policy likely, in practice, to be influenced by claimed normative considerations? This paper will seek to address these questions through an analysis of the EU's negotiating positions vis-à-vis the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) being put in place with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. If norms are being promoted or diffused, are they appropriate to African countries and populations? Or is the whole rhetoric of norm diffusion simply a guise for the pursuit of European economic interests?

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)
"the Commission approaches negotiations with developing countries in the same way that they deal with the US, Japan or China - with a view to getting the best possible outcome for Europe" (Christopher Stevens, Institute for Development Studies, Guardian , 5 th October 2005).

Introduction and Background
EPAs constitute alternative arrangements to the long-standing Lomé Convention's regulation of EU-ACP relations, under which the ACP grouping had enjoyed privileged access to EU markets as well as certain aid and political dialogue provisions. Under Lomé's successor - the Cotonou Agreement of 2000 - the EU-ACP relationship will be transformed into relationships between the EU and regional groupings of ACP states, including a staggered transition towards reciprocal free trade i.e., a shift from the position whereby the ACP countries enjoyed non-reciprocal, privileged access to EU markets.

This shift is explained on two grounds. First, non-reciprocal arrangements are judged to be in breach of WTO rules (whereas reciprocal free trade deals are not), and a WTO waiver allowing temporary retention of the Lomé-style provisions expires at the end of 2007. Second, there is a claimed "mutual recognition that existing non reciprocal trade preferences have not promoted the sustainable development or integration into the world economy of ACP countries" (Commission, 2005b: 2). There is evidence for this latter claim: the ACP share of world exports fell from 3.2% in 1970 to 1.3% in 2003, while even the ACP share of the EU market (where they enjoyed favourable access) declined over the same period from 4.1% to 1.0% (Borrmann et al , 2005: 169). However, whether EPAs are the best means to reverse this trend towards marginalisation is not as widely agreed upon. And whether the commercial self-interest of the EU is also one of the grounds for the shift is discussed below.

In terms of the practical detail of the negotiations, the Caribbean and Pacific constitute separate regions in their own rights. The African regional groupings with which the EU is negotiating are as follows.

  • Central Africa: Cameroon, Republic of Central Africa, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tomé e Principe.
  • Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA): Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Southern Africa Development Community (SADC): Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Tanzania, and with South Africa participating in a supportive and observer capacity. (The original SADC, a pre-existing regional body, also contains six other members - DR Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe - but these have chosen to negotiate with the EU through the ESA).
  • West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Mauritania and Sierra Leone.

The intention is to have EPAs agreed with each region and ready to come into force on 1 January 2008. Trade liberalisation would proceed asymmetrically, with the EU dismantling barriers more quickly than the ACP states (and with scope for transitional protection of 'sensitive' sectors, particularly on the part of the ACP), though differences of opinion have arisen about the precise time periods and probable exemptions involved (see below). The EU would also agree packages of financial assistance with each region.

EU Self-Interest and the Scope of the Negotiations
Some commentators argue that a third, typically unstated, reason for the shift towards reciprocal free trade is to allow EU business better penetrate emerging ACP markets (Goodison and Stoneman, 2004: 733; and see the above cited WDM critique of the EU's GATS agenda). The charge is rejected by the current EU trade commissioner: "EPAs are not about Europe trying to force open markets for our benefit" (Mandelson, 2005). Nonetheless, critics remain sceptical on this point and suggest that "the EU's commercial self-interest" remains a driving factor (Bain et al , 2004).

The organisation Traidcraft (2003; see also Hurt, 2003 and has been to the fore in criticisms of the EU's (allegedly self-serving) agenda, highlighting the following claimed elements of the EU's negotiating stance vis-à-vis the EPAs:

  • Demands for liberalisation of public procurement in the ACP states (allowing EU firms to bid for public works contracts there and not allowing ACP governments support or prioritise local contractors);
  • Movement towards liberalisation of all service sectors i.e., an even more ambitious approach than the GATS one of tabling sectoral requests (see above);
  • And pressure to ensure European firms receive at least as favourable treatment as local ones in the ACP countries, meaning that ACP governments would not be allowed discriminate in favour of locally owned firms or require European companies to abide by special conditions with regard to local employment or procurement.

The Commission has denied that these demands are based on European self-interest and defended the very wide agenda of the negotiations:

"EPAs are part of the overall effort to build up the economic governance framework, the stable, transparent and predictable rules necessary to lower the costs of doing business, attract fresh domestic or foreign investment and make ACP producers more diversified and competitive. This is why the EPAs must be comprehensive, dealing with all the rules and issues that concern private investors and traders... As a result, issues such as competition policy and investment rules are no luxury but fundamental factors that affect the decisions of traders and investors" (Commission, 2005b: 32).

Critics remain unconvinced by the attempt to extend the agreements beyond trade policies and into areas of what they see as domestic economic governance. They note that it is precisely these ambitions on the part of the EU, to push the so-called 'Singapore Issues' (investment, competition, and public procurement) into trade agreements, that have been rejected by most developing countries at World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations (Curtis, 2005: 12-13). The Commission recognises the point, but is unapologetic:

"We recognise the concern among NGOs that the EU is 'trying to reintroduce the so-called Singapore issues by the back door'. However, everyone should acknowledge that investment, public procurement and competition policy are essential parts of successful economic governance" (Commission memorandum, January 2005, cited in Curtis, 2005: 13).

But not everyone does acknowledge this argument, nor do they see why they should. They see instead an attempt on the part of the Commission to lock ACP states into a particular model of economic governance, reflecting a longer-term shift in EU-ACP relations from "a redistributive, interventionist approach to one founded on the principles of free trade and neoliberal othrodoxy" (Nunn and Price, 2004: 213). (3) By 'locking in' the neoliberal paradigm, EPAs may oblige ACP countries to surrender important elements of autonomy and flexibility of economic policy in the future (Nunn and Price, 2004: 221). This raises the possibility that Normative Power Europe in indeed in action - diffusing, however, a particular and controversial 'norm' of economic governance, a possibility discussed further below.

This relates to wider debates within economic development about the claimed 'shrinking of development space' (Wade, 2003) - the way in which trade agreements serve to preclude countries from pursuing the types of interventionist policies which, it is claimed, stimulated economic development in the now-developed economies (Chang, 2002). Whether the motive for this 'lock-in' is commercial self-interest on the part of the EU may, at the end of the day, be less important than the fact of the imposition of a certain 'one-size-fits-all' economic orthodoxy. This is especially problematic when the claimed gains to the ACP countries from the EPAs are highly debatable, as the next section will demonstrate.

Preliminary Economic Assessments: Trade and Revenue Effects
Milner et al (2005) have sought to estimate the likely economic impact of an EPA on three African economies - Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. As far as trade effects are concerned, consumers in Tanzania and Uganda might benefit from cheaper EU imports, but Kenyan producers, who currently supply many of these imports, would likely lose out. And all three countries would be affected by the loss of tariff revenue as trade barriers were dismantled. In the case of Tanzania and Uganda, over half of current tariff revenue would be lost, an especially severe blow given the relatively limited potential for diversification of the tax base. While long-term gains might be reaped through, for example, increased attractiveness to foreign investment, "The core conclusion is that one cannot assume that the welfare effects on ACP countries will be positive; it is very possible that the static effects will be negative", even, as for a country like Kenya, before the loss of tariff revenue is taken into account (Milner et al , 2005: 348).

One aspect of the Milner et al study is striking in retrospect. The authors assumed that Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda would all be part of a single EPA. In, fact Tanzania has opted to negotiate with the EU as a member of the SADC group even though it is a member, with Kenya and Uganda, of the East African Community's Customs Union. This highlights the issue of overlapping memberships of regional groupings and begs the question of whether EPAs will correspond to the existing and/or most appropriate patterns of regional co-operation in Africa, a question returned to in the next section of this paper.

Borrmann et al (2005) review a number of studies of the likely impact of EPAs. In the case of West Africa, they cite findings of a probable moderate trade impact but a potentially severe loss of important customs revenues. In the case of Cape Verde and Gambia, that projected loss might amount to 20 per cent of total government revenue, with the figure likely to range between 5 and 10 per cent for other countries in the region (Borrmann et al , 2005: 171). As the authors comment, "These are relatively large numbers that may affect the ability of West African ACP countries to provide much needed public goods, such as education or infrastructure" (Borrmann et al , 2005: 171). The findings reviewed in the cases of SDAC and ESA also point to declining ACP welfare levels as tariff revenue losses are projected to outweigh gains (to consumers) from lower import prices (Borrmann et al , 2005: 172).

Research carried out by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), and referred to further below, broadly reinforces these conclusions, noting that "The task of adopting to tariff revenue loss could be substantial" (Stevens and Kennan, 2005: 4).

Fostering Regional Co-operation?
"Creating integrated regional markets is at the heart of the concept of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that the EU is currently negotiating with four Sub-Saharan regions of Africa. These innovative agreements are being designed with development as the major objective and benchmark" (Commission, 2005a: 26).

As previously mentioned, ACP countries will have some flexibility regarding the opening up of their markets to EU imports under the EPAs, as not all trade has to be liberalised, rather 'substantially all' (Stevens and Kennan, 2005: 1). What this might mean in practice is not clear. Stevens and Kennan (2005: 2) construct a scenario where 'substantially all' is taken to mean 90 per cent of trade between the EU and each EPA regional grouping - if the EU allows 100 per cent duty-free access to ACP imports than the overall average could be achieved by the ACP countries dropping barriers on just 80 per cent of their imports from the EU. (4) (The EU-South Africa Trade Development and Co-operation Agreement of 1999 envisages South Africa liberalising 86 per cent of its imports from the EU and the EU 95 per cent of its imports from South Africa over a 12-year period - EcoNews Africa and Traidcraft, 2005: 47). This could leave ACP states with quite a lot of scope to maintain tariffs vis-à-vis especially sensitive sectors (perhaps those most vulnerable to EU competition) or to maintain those tariffs that generate significant government revenues. This is one of the reasons why Stevens and Kennan (2005) anticipate mild trade effects arising from EPAs.

However, the problem with this scenario is the challenge it poses to regional co-operation. The products that any one country would probably seek to exclude from liberalisation would usually not be the ones that other countries in the region would likely seek to exclude. There is not one single product that would be common to the probable exclusions list of all individual country members of any of the regional groups, and in the case of West Africa there would be no country overlap at all in the case of 92 per cent of products (with the figures for Central Africa, ESA and SADC 51, 43 and 64 per cent respectively). Thus, unlike the estimate for trade effects, when it comes to regional integration "it looks likely that there will be a significant effect - but a negative one" (Stevens and Kennan, 2005: 4).

That EU policy may be prejudicial to African regional co-operation is a point made by other observers also, and is already implicit in the projection of EU imports displacing those from Kenya on the Ugandan market - hardly a motive force to regional integration in East Africa. And the separation of Kenya and Uganda (ESA) from Tanzania (SADC) in the negotiations raises question marks over the viability of plans to relaunch the East African Community as a Customs Union (Goodison, 2005a: 172). The wider Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) - the core of the ESA bloc - is itself divided by the EPA process as its largest economy, Egypt (a non-ACP country), cannot be a party to the negotiations (Goodison, 2005a: 172). Page (2004) has pointed to the EU's negotiation of a separate free trade agreement (Known as the EU-South Africa Trade Development and Co-operation Agreement) with South Africa (in 1999), posing special difficulties for the four ACP countries already members of a customs union with South Africa - Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS). The BNLS countries are now, along with Tanzania, Angola and Mozambique, negotiating an EPA with the EU as part of SADC (though, as noted earlier, this is really a sub-group of SADC as several of its members are negotiating an EPA as members of the ESA group). The EU has effectively locked the BLNS countries into the same tariff structure as South Africa (Melber, 2005: 5) and this may now act as the basis for an EU-SADC EPA. Goodison and Stoneman (2004: 727) note that this may be highly inappropriate to the specific needs and constraints of the BLNS countries and also those of Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Indeed, it is partly for these reasons that Mauritius and Zimbabwe chose the ESA rather than the SADC EPA option: "To avoid being forced to open their market according to the EU-South Africa... liberalisation schedule" (Meyn, 2004: 16). But Meyn (2004: 16) goes on to point out that this decision may be damaging to the close investment ties between Mauritius and South Africa i.e., there is a "risk that Mauritius' trade interests are pursued at the expense of its investment interests".

Further problems for effective regional co-operation within the EPA groupings arise from the fact that many ACP countries are classified as 'least-developed' countries (LDCs) and thus already see their exports qualify for almost unlimited duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market under the 'Everything But Arms' (EBA) scheme. As the EU lowers import barriers generally to ACP states under EPAs, the relative advantage enjoyed by the EBA countries disappears; "either the EPAs must provide for differentiation among members or they will offer worse treatment to the LDCs than they have under EBA" (Gillson and Grim, 2004: 1). Again, the way in which the EU has constructed cross-cutting deals and schemes vis-à-vis Africa renders regional co-operation problematic, though this is not a factor the Commission itself (2005b) is willing to acknowledge in its identification of barriers to EPA progress. Given the EU's complicated and overlapping policies, Page (2004: 6) finds it "surprising that the European Commission thinks it is in a position to criticise African countries for having multiple trading agreements".

For all the above reasons, Goodison (2005a: 172) notes that "the EPA process... has led to the fragmentation of existing regional integration schemes".

Flexibility and 'Flanking' Measures
As mentioned above, there is some dispute about the schedule that the ACP countries would be expected to follow in terms of reciprocating market access. The WTO rules only specify that reciprocal free trade agreements should be implemented "within a reasonable period of time" (cited in EcoNews Africa and Traidcraft, 2005: 47). In March 2005, the British government argued that the EPAs should not be used to leverage European access to developing country markets, and that a minimum 20-year timetable should be set for full import liberalisation on the part of ACP states. The Director-General of the Commission's trade directorate described the British position as "a major and unwelcome shift" and insisted that a shorter timetable for full liberalisation would be adhered to by the Commission regardless of Member State objections (Guardian , 19th May 2005). According to the Commission official, the British stance "could well make progress with EPA negotiations more difficult by reinforcing the views of the more sceptical ACP states and raising the prospect of alternatives that are, in reality, impractical" (Guardian , 19th May 2005). (5)

The Africa Commission does not believe that alternatives are impractical, arguing instead that "individual African countries should be allowed to sequence their own trade reforms, at their own pace, in line with their own poverty-reduction and development plans" (cited in Goodison, 2005b: 296). A British parliamentary report has argued that there should be no fixed timetable for liberalisation at all, and that LDCs should only be expected to offer reciprocal market access after they have graduated out of their LDC status (Goodison, 2005b: 296). Goodison (2005a and 2005b) raises the possibility of the ACP countries liberalising to the minimal extent necessary to become WTO-compliant, and deferring further liberalisation until such time as they have a sense of how their economies and comparative advantages are evolving. This evolution will be heavily influenced by reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and by the establishment of regional markets and production structures, amongst other factors, and it will be some time before the countries concerned have the information necessary to determine what sectors they wish to retain protection for.

But the Commission, while perhaps being willing to consider a 15-year timetable rather than the 10-12 year transition fist mooted, remains wedded to a specific liberalisation timetable being laid down in advance (Goodison, 2005a: 170; Goodison, 2005b: 297).

The Commission has also indicated that it recognises the importance of so-called 'flanking' issues, such as EU food safety standards acting as barriers to ACP exports, and has pledged aid support to countries needing assistance to meet such standards (Goodison, 2005b: 299). According to Goodison (2005b: 299-301), however, this recognition has not translated into changes in aid disbursement, nor is it likely to do so if the evidence of "administrative indifference in Brussels and a lack of effective follow-through on rhetorical commitments by the Commissioners responsible" is anything to go by (Goodison, 2005b: 300). There is "currently little evidence that addressing supply-side constraints is being accorded priority within the EU aid-deployment process" (Goodison, 2005a: 168-9).

"it would be an act of foolish optimism to expect integrity or honesty in the EU's trade policy towards Southern Africa and the wider ACP group" (Goodison and Stoneman, 2004: 734).

The Commission has implied that some critics are ideologically motivated; it itself, of course, is not, by definition. It also claims that "In a number of cases, NSAs [non-state actors] have taken a very critical stance towards EPA without however considering more nuanced arguments or offering alternatives how to improve the situation of the ACP" (Commission, 2005b: 6). In fact, it is not the absence of alternatives, but rather the Commission's unwillingness to consider alternatives, that has tended to characterise the EPA debate.

Does this imply that the EU is not acting as a Normative Power but rather out of an old-fashioned realpolitik defence of (mainly economic) self-interest? Perhaps, and there if no doubt that the EU's trade agenda in general is hugely influenced by corporate lobbying and influence (Deckwirth, 2005), despite a profound reluctance to admit as much. For example, the Commission's new EU strategy for Africa talks of a "changing geopolitical context" in Africa, with powers such as China, the US and Russia increasingly engaging with Africa for reasons including market access and sourcing of energy supplies (Commission, 2005a: 10). The EU's engagement with Africa, by contrast, is portrayed as unsullied by such squalid materialism.

At the same time there may also be a sense in which the EU is not necessarily pursuing immediate commercial goals, but is acting to diffuse (possibly even impose) 'norms' on Africa - specifically, certain norms of (neoliberal) economic governance, alternatives to which are dismissed as much for reasons of principle as for the prospect of commercial gain. Goodison (2005a: 170) describes the Commission's "ideological belief in what is termed 'open regionalism'" i.e., using regional economic integration as a stepping-stone to global economic integration, rather than as a (perhaps temporary) shield against the forces of global competition. (6)

Commissioner Mandelson has spoken of 'the right conditions' needing to be in place if openness to trade is to translate into poverty reduction:

"For Commissioner Mandelson these 'right conditions' appeared to relate primarily to improving the business climate, establishing appropriate domestic economic policies and following principles of good governance" (Goodison, 2005a: 168).

Thus, there may be some reality in the idea that Normative Power Europe is in action in the EPA negotiations, especially as, in his initial formulation of the concept, Manners (2002) identified 'good governance' as one of the (minor) norms in question. The problem is that what is being promoted is a particular model of 'good governance', narrowly focused on specific norms concerning liberal democracy and market economics (Abrahamsen, 2000). This is far from guaranteed to yield positive outcomes for African and other ACP countries.

Contrary to the aspiration of Habermas and Derrida (2003), the EU is not seeing to imbue 'globalisation' with the idea of social solidarity claimed to be characteristic of Europe itself. It is, instead, committed to a neoliberal agenda that drives forward rather than restrains actually existing globalisation. Manners (2002) is correct to argue that Europe exercises power in the world through its ability to influence (and partially set) global opinions and norms. This is evident in the EPA negotiations but, unfortunately, the norms being promoted do not correspond to the developmental needs of African economies.

Andy Storey (Centre for Development Studies, University College Dublin)

1) Similarly, Will Hutton (2003), editor of the Observer newspaper, argues that "we Europeans have a lot in common. Europeans believe in a social contract - the big idea behind the NHS and state education. Europeans believe that their civilisations are enriched by public interventions and institutions - from public footpaths to public service broadcasting". - back

2) In the words of one Commission official, speaking in 1999, "The European Commission is going to rely heavily on the ESF... We are going to rely on it just as heavily as on member state direct advice in trying to formulate our objectives" (cited in Corporate Europe Observatory, 2003). - back

3) Charting a similar transition, Karagiannis (2004: 111) notes that "The European development discourse from the 1970s up to the 1990s has moved from a conception of giving centrally involving the gift to a conception of giving as market exchange", where the market is the determinant of what constitutes efficiency and, therefore, desirability. - back

4) In effect, this scenario assumes that the EU extends to all ACP countries the duty-free access privileges currently accorded to least-developed countries under the EU's 'Everything But Arms' initiative. - back

5) The Guardian (19 th May 2005) went on to quote a 'trade source' in Brussels as saying that "Britain has not been pushing its position very hard", which might suggest the position was more of a sop to a (pre-election) domestic constituency than a serious attempt to alter the Commission's trade negotiating position. "Before the election, Blair makes one of his tear-jerking appeals for love, compassion and human fellowship, and gets the anti-poverty movement off his back. After the election he discovers, to his inestimable regret, that love, compassion and human fellowship won't after all be possible, as a result of a ruling by the European commission" (Monbiot, 2005). - back

6) Nesadurai (2002) distinguishes between two models of regionalism in relation to globalisation: 'open' and 'resistance' (though she does not claim that these two options exhaust the range of possible regional governance models, and, in practice, any country is likely to exhibit aspects of both 'openness' and 'resistance'). Open regionalism establishes regional governance arrangements that serve to facilitate globalisation, whereas resistance regionalism seeks, in one way or another, to govern a region so as to restrain or limit aspects of globalisation and to favour regional interests over those from outside the region. - back


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EcoNews Africa and Traidcraft Exchange (2005) 'EPAs: Through the Lens of Kenya', London and Nairobi (September).

Forsberg, T. and G.P. Herd (2005) 'The EU, Human Rights, and the Russo-Chechen Conflict', Political Science Quarterly 120 (3): 455-78.

Gillson, I. and S. Grimm (2004) 'EU Trade Partnerships with Developing Countries', Overseas Development Institute Briefing Paper (April).

Goodison, P. (2005a) 'The European Union: New Start or Old Spin?', Review of African Political Economy (103): 167-76.

Goodison. P. (2005b) 'Six Months On: What Shift is there in the EU Approach to EPA Negotiations?', Review of African Political Economy (104/5): 167-76.

Goodison, P. and C. Stoneman (2004) 'Europe: Partner or Exploiter of Africa? The G-90 and the ACP', Review of African Political Economy (99): 725-34.

Habermas, J. and J. Derrida (2003) 'February 15, or What Binds Europeans Together: a Plea for a Common Foreign Policy, Beginning in a Core of Europe', Constellations 10 (3): 291-7.

Hurt, S.R. (2003) 'Cooperation and Coercion? The Cotonou Agreement Between the European Union and ACP States and the End of the Lomé Convention', Third World Quarterly 24 (1): 161-76.

Hutton, W. (2003) 'Why I Fear that the Dream is Doomed', Observer (14 th December).

Karagiannis, N. (2004) Avoiding Responsibility: the Politics and Discourse of European Development Policy . London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.

Lightfoot, S. and J. Burchell (2005) 'The European Union and the World Summit on Sustainable Development: Normative Power Europe in Action?', Journal of Common Market Studies 43 (1): 75-95.

Mandelson, P. (2005) 'For Real Trade Justice, Barriers Must Come Down Gradually', Guardian (3 rd October).

Manners, I. (2002) 'Normative Power Europe: a Contradiction in Terms?', Journal of Common Market Studies 40 (2): 235-58.

Melber, H. (2005) 'The EU-ACP Process: Building Block for a Coherent EU Policy on Africa? A Critical Appraisal with Special Reference to the Economic Partnership Agreements', input paper presented to the Second ExpertWorkshop 'From Individual Action to a Common Strategy? EU Policy on sub-Saharan Africa', organised by the Development and Peace Foundation, Gustav-Stressmann-Institute, Bonn (20-21 September).

Meyn, M. (2004) 'Are Economic Partnership Agreements Likely to Promote or Constrain Regional Integration in Southern Africa? Options, Limits and Challenges Botswana, Mauritius and Mozambique are Facing', Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit Working Paper (96), Windhoek (July).

Milner, C., Morrisey, O. and A. McKay (2005) 'Some Simple Analytics of the Trade and Welfare Effects of Economic Partnership Agreements', Journal of African Economies 14 (3): 327-58.

Monbiot, G. (2005) 'A Game of Double Bluff', Guardian (31 st May).

Nesadurai, H. (2002) 'Globalisation and Economic Regionalism: a Survey and Critique of the Literature', CSGR Working Paper (108), Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, Warwick.

Nunn, A. and S. Price (2004) 'Managing Development: EU and African Relations through the Evolution of the Lomé and Cotonou Agreements', Historical Materialism 12 (4): 203-30.

Page, S. (2004) 'Special and Differential Treatment or Divide and Rule? European Union Trade Policy towards Developing Countries', University College Dublin Centre for Development Studies Development Research Briefing (3).

Rifkin, J. (2004) The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream . Cambridge: Polity.

Traidcraft (2003) 'Economic Partnership Agreements: the EU's New Trade Battleground', London (September).

Stevens, C. (2005) 'Mandelson's Plans for Market Access', Guardian (letter, 5 th October).

Stevens, C. and J. Kennan (2005) 'EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreements: the Effects of Reciprocity', Institute of Development Studies Briefing Paper (May).

Syzmanski, M. and M.E. Smith (2005) 'Coherence and Conditionality in European Foreign Policy: Negotiating the EU-Mexico Global Agreement', Journal of Common Market Studies 43 (1): 171-92.

Wade, R.H. (2003) 'What Strategies are Viable for Developing Countries Today? The World Trade Organisation and the Shrinking of "Development Space"', Review of International Political Economy 10 (4): 621-44.

World Development Movement (2005) 'Leaked Documents Reveal EU Plan to Force Open Developing Country Markets', London (October).

World Development Movement (2003) 'Whose Development Agenda? A Preliminary Analysis of the 109 EU GATS Requests', London (February).

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