By Jaya Ramachandran

G”Over the past 40 years the ACP and the EU have promoted a unique trade and development cooperation model that inspires global North-South cooperation,” said Viwanou Gnassounou, Assistant Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States, at the ‘Aid for Trade’ Global Review 2019.

“Evidently from the post 2020 EU-ACP trade cooperation, the objective of maintaining inclusiveness while seeking to achieve greater integration into the global economy and promoting sustainable development remains central going forward,” added Gnassounou.

ACP countries can, with a continued structured partnership with the European Union and the underlying political commitment, endeavour to accelerate the pace of inclusive integration into the regional and global economies.

The Review took place from July 3 to 5 at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva under the theme ‘Supporting Economic Diversification and Empowerment for Inclusive, Sustainable Development through Aid for Trade’.

‘EU-ACP Trade and Development Cooperation – Revolutionizing economic diversification and empowerment through inclusive and sustainable aid for trade’ – was the topic of a side event, organized by the EU-ACP TradeCom II Programme, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Secretariat, the EU-ACP Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and COLEACP (An Association of Companies and Experts Committed to Sustainable Agriculture).

The discussions sought to respond to the question: How EU-ACP aid for trade cooperation can drive the sustainable development agenda and create synergies with other trade and cooperation instruments for more effective, sustainable and progressive results?

It was pointed out that recent global developments have contributed to structural adaptation and improvement in their cooperation that further bridge the economic divide between developed and developing partners, and lay solid foundations for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Trade cooperation through regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with sustainable development and economic integration objectives remain central to the EU-ACP cooperation model.

It is intended to provide greater impetus to the ACP’s sustained export competitiveness and expansion, effective penetration into and climbing regional and global value chains, and effective negotiation and implementation of multilateral and regional trade agreements. Specific trade cooperation components focus on:

  • Supporting and strengthening regional and national regimes to support the expansion of inclusive trade and micro/macro-economic growth targeting inclusiveness, youth unemployment, and poverty reduction;
  • Enhancing the productive capacity for trade and value chain expansion, diversification and competitiveness, including through transformative processes such as value-addition;
  • Mainstreaming vulnerable sectors such as women and youth into instruments and policies that promote more equitable participation in trade and distribution of wealth;
  • Dissemination of trade and investment knowledge and cooperation instruments between the public and private sector and other actors of the civil society;
  • Harnessing the trade-related aspects of the green and digital economy; and
  • Overall promotion of sustainable development.

Wrapping up the three-day conference, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said: “The 2019 Review has been focused on supporting economic diversification and empowerment. This is fundamental when we look at the current landscape.”

He was referring to huge economic change, driven by many factors – including new technologies – which is reshaping the way our societies operate and interact. The trade and development community, therefore, must ensure that initiatives like Aid for Trade can adapt and continue to make a meaningful contribution on the ground.

This concern was reflected in many of the debates during this Global Review. For example, a theme that emerged strongly from the review was the importance of digital connectivity for diversification and inclusion.

The conference participants heard how digital approaches are being integrated in Aid for Trade activities, and how they are being applied to the movement of cargo, and how these approaches can be used to bring the most fragile into trade flows. In fact, many participants highlighted digital inclusion as a critical part of diversification.