There is an elementary school story about why Washington chopped down his father’s expensive cherry tree, and young George says, “I cannot tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet.” What the story doesn’t explain is that he cut down the cherry tree because his father was harvesting those cherries for market and poor George wasn’t getting any.
Well, neither of these stories are true, but here is an example of the crappy things Washington does when it doesn’t get its way.
According to reliable information from sources inside the Government of Ghana, Washington is “using it’s influence on aid organizations in West Africa by increasing its resource allocation to civil society organizations to pressure groups to intensify its campaign for a total rejection of EU’s EPAs (Economic Partnership Agreements) with ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West Africa States.”
Late August, EU power house German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced that talks between the EU and the USA on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, have essentially failed.
Not to be left out of the EU’s Africa agenda, Washington is employing a tit-for-tat motivation to interfere with an Economic Partnership Agreement that brings together not only the 16 countries of this African region but also their two regional organizations: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).
In other words, if the US cannot benefit by embedding itself into these EU EPAs via TTIP, it could try to sabotage it at the expense of years of negotiations.
The sixteen African countries that make up ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Mauritania.
According to the European Commission, West African countries account for 40 percent of all trade between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and sources confirm that the ECOWAS countries will liberalize 75 percent of trade over a 20-year transition period. For the U.S., TTIP provided access into this agreement dragging along its own market arrangements to compete with ECOWAS and now that TTIP is waning, Washington behaves as if the EU-ACP was about to bankrupt West Africa with its neoliberal economic investment schemes.
For better or worse, from a development perspective, the EU have traditionally been strong development partners with the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific), a grouping of 78 developing countries that was formed through the Cotonou Agreement, signed in Benin in 2000. This agreement sought more coherent development, investment and trade among its members, and although negotiations within the ACP-EU have been part of the same neoliberal privatization regime as the World Bank and USAID, the ACP-EU now appears to be more open to working through the stalled Doha Development Agenda.
As many have argued, TTIP was a back door for partner countries to bully forth an agenda that will circumvent the WTO Doha Rounds, just as the TPP is a back door for Australia, NZ, Japan and the U.S. to bully Pacific countries.
What has changed since the signing of the Cotonou Agreement however, is the formation of BRICS in 2014, whose Fortaleza Declaration is committed to work within the WTO to resolve the Doha disputes in favor of its own emerging economies.
In the last two years, China has become the dominant player in both developing countries and the global economy, while neither the US, the EU nor Japan have been able to resolve their massive public debt burden.
Countries in the EU have been more open to work with the BRICS countries and more accommodating of the shifting multipolarity that has evolved since the 2008 financial crisis. We see this being played out in other institutions where, for example, the IMF has recently adopted the RMB as part of its currency reserve basket, and many countries within the EU have signed onto the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The US has opposed these initiatives, believing that if the US can shut out the BRICS agenda (which has already been done with Brazil and regionally with the other Mercosur countries; India is on the fence; South Africa is being pounded; attempts to isolate Russia with Nato and contain China in partnership with Japan are evident), then the US can continue with its unipolar initiatives towards global corporate governance.
Interfering with the ACP-EU is nothing more than bullying by the U.S. And although the ACP-EU isn’t a panacea for the developing countries, their capacity to work within evolving multilateral institutions signals that we could be headed towards more equitable development, investment and trade if the AIIB and the One Belt One Road initiative is given the chance to meet its objectives.