Africa Economy: ACP countries court emerging markets

Global Times, September 15, 2012

The group of 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) have for decades been associated with the European Union, but that is about to change.

ACP group of countries have a shared feature of being former colonies of European countries. They are all resource rich countries that have for long fed raw materials to the European manufacturing industries.

When independent about 50 years ago, these countries were extremely poor. So the Europeans decided to offer them preferential access to their markets to help them jumpstart their exports.

The European Union (EU) wants the ACP to reciprocate the preferential market access, but the ACP countries have been reluctant to do that, and instead have also been busy planning how to shed-off the EU tag and embrace new trading friends.

"The rise of emerging economies provides opportunities for alternative markets for the ACP countries, new sources of finance, technology and markets for value added products," ACP members on Friday resolved after four days of deliberations in Nairobi.

The final communique of the conference recommended the rise of regional trade agreements provides ACP countries with opportunities of larger economic spaces for smaller developing countries.

Earlier, during the opening of the conference on Tuesday, members said there is a need to extend ACP's focus to China, India and Brazil, countries that are already doing booming trade with specific ACP countries.

"By extending its trade relations beyond the EU, ACP countries will be in a better position to influence the establishment of an equitable and well functioning system of global trade," said Rashid Kaukab, Deputy Director and Research Coordinator, CUSGeneva Resource Centre, a non-government group working to improve trade negotiation skills of developing countries' negotiators.

Johnson Weru, the Director of Economic and External Trade at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the intention is to make ACP group become a more visible player in the global economy that can be able to influence international trade policies.

"It does not mean that we are abandoning or overlooking our traditional partner, the EU," he said.

Other recommendations made at the close of the meeting included ACP countries joining together with other countries likely to be adversely affected by climate change, to put pressure on biggest emitters to take more responsibility and measures to address climate change.

ACP countries agreed to push ahead with lobbying for stronger enforcement of the international treaties that require countries to cut on their emissions.

"Climate change affects ACP countries more yet they are least responsible for emitting the global warming gasses. We shall continue to explore a positive agenda regarding climate change and trade issues," Roy Mickey, the Ambassador of Vanuatu to the EU and the Kingdom of Belgium.

ACP countries said they regard climate change as the greatest threat to their better participation in the global trade. Climate change, officials of ACP countries said, will diminish the same resources that the countries offer to the international market.

"For instance, a country like Kenya exports more of tea and coffee, if climate in those areas is no longer able to support the growing of those crops, then it means Kenya's ability to participate in the global trade is severely affected," said Weru.

Another recommendation called on greater investments in food security by the ACP countries. They agreed to promote domestic food production by providing incentives to products, maintain national and regional emergency grain reserves and regulate food prices.

They agreed to develop a template that will guide ACP countries to implement agriculture investment in the view of emerging challenges like land grabbing arising from new land deals that have political consequences.

"We must shift agriculture from being predominantly peasant farming to commercial because there is no industrialized country that is developed by by-passing investments in agriculture," said Fidelis Ugbo, the Secretary of the National Planning Commission of Nigeria.

Member countries agreed to support home grown enterprises so that they can be able to be part of the emerging markets networks of enterprises which will enable them to access bigger market, attract better technology and improve foreign exchange earning potential for their respective countries.

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