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What Regional Integration and Economic Partnership Agreements Make Sense at this Time for Africa?

By Chukwuma Agu | African Institute for Applied Economics | October 18, 2005


Do developing countries need regional integration arrangements (RIAs) and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) at this time? If they do, what forms should they take? Why have regional integration arrangements and efforts to replicate the EU among developing countries not worked? Why may they not work? While answers are still few, pressure on policymakers in developing countries to move with standard prescriptions is quite intense. This paper is therefore an attempt to orchestrate fresh debate on these issues which in many quarters are assumed given. The paper evaluates RIAs and EPAs in Africa and the Caribbean with a view to drawing basic lessons for developing countries. It also evaluates theories and models that form the basis for recommendations for RIAs and EPAs with a view to outlining fundamental weaknesses that make their implementation difficult especially in developing countries. It presents a historical and political perspective to RIAs and EPAs in the regions using case studies of the ECOWAS, the SADC and African Caribbean Pacific/European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (ACP-EU EPA). Following assessment of the trade structure, timing and provisions of the partnership, the paper underscores the point that some of these arrangements especially the ACP-EU agreement has the tendency to worsen poverty and hinder meeting of the MDGs in ACP contrary to expressed intentions. The paper recommends integration among developing countries but with emphasis to issues of development challenges facing these countries particularly in infrastructure development, employment generation, and productivity enhancement—and not just trade.

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Read More: Development, Globalization, Poverty, Africa

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