The General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted on 1 August 2004 a Decision on the “Doha Work Programme”, which delineates a number of “Frameworks” to be used in defining “Modalities” for negotiations in the current trade talks in the WTO. These agreed frameworks are the result of intense negotiations within the Membership of the WTO and a culmination of many months of uncertainty as to the future of Doha Development Programme and more importantly as to whether the stalled Cancun trade talks would at all be revived. The new accord reached in Geneva, therefore, breathed a new life into the global trading system.
The “July Package”, as it is generally known, provides frameworks for defining “modalities” for negotiations on agriculture; non-agricultural market access; as well as modalities for negotiations on trade facilitation; and recommendations for moving forward negotiations on trade in services. The Decision also contains proposals for further negotiations on a number of other issues, such as the developmental dimensions of the Doha Development Programme (special and differential treatment, implementation-related issues and concerns, technical assistance, and special issues of Least Developed Countries); the cotton sectoral initiative; and other issues, including rules, trade and environment, outstanding trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) issues, and dispute settlement mechanism.
The ECA, UNDP, African Union (AU), ADB, and UNCTAD are contributing to this effort and undertook two high level brainstorming meeting (Accra 2003 and Tunis 2004) and detailed studies to assist African negotiators and officials to better tackle the current round of negotiations.
On 23 June 2000, the European Union and the 77 African, Pacific and Caribbean countries signed a new Partnership Agreement under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. The Economic Partnership Agreements negotiations under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries have since entered into their second phase. In Africa, negotiations have been launched between the EU and ECOWAS and also between the EU and the Eastern and Southern African states (ESA). Negotiations between the EU and some of the Southern African countries were launched in July 2004. Similarly negotiations between the Central African states have also been progressing with the EU under the aegis of CEMAC.
It is anticipated that different players will play various roles in ensuring that the outcome of these negotiations are beneficial to Africa. In this context, different organizations at the country, regional and international level are carrying out work based on an agreed upon road map. Towards this end 7 SADC countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania) constituted a negotiating configuration and have designated Botswana’s Minister of Trade and Industry to lead the negotiations for SADC at Ministerial level.
At the sub-regional level, the Regional Economic Communities’ Secretariats are spearheading efforts to analyse impacts and negotiation positions. At the country level, the EU is facilitating EPAs impacts studies. The ECA, UNDP and UNCTAD are also contributing to this effort through detailed EPAs impact analysis studies and following them up with the organization of sub-regional workshops, such as the current one organized for the SADC countries.