Africa and Europe are looking for a new basis for their commercial relationship. Last month?
Africa and Europe are looking for a new basis for their commercial relationship. Last month in Brussels initial talks were held between representatives of the European Economic Community (EEC) and 41 developing nations -- either associated with the EEC or eligible for association. The next round in these negotiations is due to commence on October 17.
Under the Treaty of Rome those African states that had been or still were under European colonial control, mainly French, were given the status of community associates. Members of the community were obliged to offer associates the same trading relations as they offered fellow members, and conversely the associates were obliged to provide members with the same trade terms as were enjoyed by their old colonial rules.
The Treaty of Rome laos provided for the establishment of a Development Fund, which in the period 1970-74 will provide almost 1000 million US dollars-worth (400 million sterling) of aid to associated states. However, the Fund accounts for just 6% of the total aid from EEC countries to all developing nations.
The European Development Fund was, in 1963, incorporated into what became known as the Yaounde Convention. Signed at Yaounde in the Cameroun between the EEC and 18 former colonies (mainly French) the Convention was basically a restatement of the Treaty of Rome's original position -- reciprocity remained its lynch-pin. The Convention was renewed in 1969 and was due for renegotiation this year. However, with the enlargement of the EEC more countries were eligible for association, including some non-African states such as Fiji in the Pacific and the Caribbean countries.
The French-speaking states are by and large satisfied with the workings of the Yaounde Convention and would like to see it renewed the English-speaking states are opposed to it. Their opposition is based on the fact that they see it as a continuation of the old colonial relationship -- supplying Europe with primary products at guaranteed prices, while in return having their infant manufacturing industries crippled by competition from manufactured European goods.
Despite this basic difference in attitude the English and French-speaking countries of Africa were able to work out a common position in preparation for their negotiations with the EEC. Meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast last May, African Finance Ministers formulated the "African Declaration on Cooperation, Development and Economic Independence". The declaration laid down the following provisos: African states would not reciprocate tariff concessions given by the EEC; technical and financial assistance from the EEC should not be dependent on any particular form of association agreement and African states should be assured free access to Europe for all products.
The declaration represents a new united mood. If the developing states are able to convince the EEC members that their demands are fair then they will have achieved more than just the successful negotiation of a treaty. They will have laid down the foundations upon which all trade agreements between the developed and the developing world can henceforth be based.
This Visnews Feature, using the Ivory Coast as its example, looks at the impact of the EEC on the associated African states. Abidjan, the Ivory Coast's capital, plays a particular role in Euro-African relations, being not only a major recipient of aid, but also one of the major ports handling trade between Europe and West Africa.