Daily Archives: August 7, 2007

Trade deals garner headlines and photo opportunities. The talks leading up to them tend to be rather more mind-numbing, as countries haggle over whether pig bladders should be considered a sensitive product and just how many widgets should be allowed in tariff-free.

Trade talks between rich and poor countries have the added spice of David vs Goliath about them. With Doha apparently comatose once again, attention in Brussels has turned to negotiations with 78 ex-colonies.

The African, Caribbean and Pacific group (ACP) enjoy a quasi-marital relationship with the EU. It is enshrined in a legal document, the Cotonou agreement, and includes privileged access to EU markets. That arouses the jealousy of other poor countries that threw off their colonial yoke earlier, such as Latin America.

They have challenged the cosy arrangements at the World Trade Organisation and won enough battles to force a rewriting of the marriage vows by the end of this year. These will not be trade deals but "economic partnership agreements", a concept dreamed up in the Brussels bureaucracy. It wants to create clones of iteslf, with regional common markets that trade with each other and achieve economies of scale.

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