Title: Trade… and Aid? EU Policy on Economic Partnership Agreements (PDF 3.6MB)

Author(s): Ole Elgström

Paper number and date: WP 08-10, July 2008

Introduction: The empirical focus of this article is the internal negotiation processes within the European Union (EU) in its efforts to conclude Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with 79 developing countries. I seek to explain two different policy outcomes: the agreements on an EU negotiation mandate in 2002 and on the Union’s final negotiation offer in 2007. EPAs are negotiated with six regional groupings of Third World countries (Central Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa Development Community, East and Southern Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific) and are considered a novel form of co-operation with developing countries (Nielson, 2000; cf. Holland, 2002). The EPA talks are formally defined as trade negotiations and actual negotiations are handled by Directorate General (DG) Trade, guided by a Council negotiation directive.

Because the Common Commercial Policy accords important policy-making powers to the Community, it is commonly expected that the EU should speak with a single voice in trade negotiations (Dür, 2006; Meunier, 2005). EPAs are, however, ‘not free trade agreements in the usual sense’ (Mandelson, 2007). They are supposed to be ‘tools for development’ and reflect traditional aid-and-trade ties to former European colonies. The result is a situation with competing normative frameworks, where free trade principles co-exist with development concerns, but where trade representatives enjoy a significant formal, institutional advantage. How have the member states and the Commission in this particular context overcome divergent preferences to reach agreement on common negotiation positions?

Back to List of Working Papers