All entries for November 2006
November 14, 2006
My preliminary findings in the ACP case study can be found in a summarized form below. In general, it seems that changes in an international environment that once favored the creation of a regime of non-reciprocal trade preferences to former colonies fundamentally undermined the basis of Lomé, and led to the reorganization of the ACP-EU regime under the auspices of Cotonou:
1. The reorganization of the regime owes much to the emphasis the EU now places on WTO compliance, but doubts remain as to whether this is not simply a device to legitimate Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA’s) that the EU wishes to pursue as part of its Cotonou strategy: essentially FTA’s with several regional ACP country groupings
2. Officials have also underscored that the “experience with ACP countries was that preferences were necessary but not enough for development.” Cotonou, a more comprehensive development agreement in their eyes, seemed to the well-intentioned
3. Cotonou is seen by EU officials as “neither a trade agreement nor a completely political agreement but a mixture of the two.” (Council Interviews in March 2006) This underscores a growing trend towards conditionality not only in the ACP-EU framework, but also within the EU’s generalized preference schemes for developing countries: in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and its enhanced counterpart Super GSP.
4. The entry of new members has shifted EU priorities towards its neighbors and away from the traditional emphasis on post-colonial relationships.
Most of our work on the project so far has consisted on analyzing two case studies of European bilateral trade agreements, with the ACP group and with India. In addition we hope to add a case study on the EuroMed agreements. The structure of the project would therefore emerge as follows, with the case studies (section 3. below) as the main focal point of the project):
2. General overview sections considering:
a) A consideration of public policy in the EU and its impact on trade policy
b) The EU in the WTO
c) The overall economic impact of the EU’s bilateral trading relations
3. Case studies (including statistical analysis)
a) The Lome/Cotonou framework of ACP-EU relations
b) The Euromed agreements
c) A consideration of the new FTA’s the EU is considering, and as an example of particular import, India
4. A section drawing all themes together and relating it to the central question
5. Conclusion and future prospects
We were lucky enough to be able to present the main aspects of our project at an HEA Event held in the Panorama Round entitled: “Research-Based Learning in Higher Education: the Warwick Experience”. Our presentation was part of a larger presentation of the work of the Reinvention Centre at Warwick.
Part of our script for the presentation is reproduced below:
”... Our project was not only our very own intiative from the start, but was at all times a student-led experience. Although we did have a couple of members of staff in the Politics & Economics Departments helped us tweak our research question and proposal, we decided on the rest. Udayan was going to focus on the economic issues underpinning the EU´s trading patterns, through statistical and economic modelling while I focused on the qualitative analysis of the political factors. And what better way of getting a sense of the actual politics involved by actually visiting Brussels and questioning senior civil servants?
The Reinvention Centre grant we received mainly paid for our two-week trip to Brussels in March of this year, which allowed us to interview those members of the Council and Commission staff that had agreed to meet us to discuss their role in EU trade policy-making, including Head of the Agriculture Unit in the Council, members from DG Trade and External Relations in the Commission and the spokesman for the Development & Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel. We grilled them, among other things, on the trade aspect of the CAP, on the Doha Round, on the much-criticized Economic Partnership Agreements… All in all, it gave us over 10 hours of interview material to sift through, which greatly enhanced our appreciation of the issues at stake and gave a potentially “dry” topic a distinctive “edge”.
What did we find through our project? Three things, essentially:
1. Trade agreements are increasingly a means of exerting political leverage through reinforced “political conditionality” clauses.
2. EU officials largely considered the pursuit of bilateral (preferential) trade agreements to be complementary to WTO (multilateral) trade negotiations, even though our research seemed to suggest the emergence of a “hub-and-spokes” system benefitting the EU.
3. The shifting foreign policy and economic priorities of its member states are strongly reflected in the evolving character of the EU’s bilateral trade agreements.
Personally [I Gabriel Siles], have always had the ambition to go into academia (first as an astrophysicist when I was quite young) and now in Political Science. The Reinvention Centre gave me the chance to take the initiative and see for myself what it is like to draft a research proposal, conduct primary research, and compile my findings, things all (good) academics must be quite competent at. Because I found the whole experience so thrilling, my ambition has really been galvanized. I now really want to undertake original research as soon as possible, hopefully through an ESRC 1+3 (or 2+2) studentship of a one (or two)-year research masters followed by 2 or 3 years of doctoral study, and that in the field I researched thanks to the Reinvention Centre: the political economy of international trade.
I’d say that the whole experience has really shown me what I want to do, and how I want to accomplish it, and that more so than any other aspect of my life at University.”