Trade and regional integration

Click here for a detailed report of our programme activities in 2012.

Kathleen ECDPM 2013 Trade
The challenge

By any measure, 2012 was a disappointing year for global trade. The prolonged global economic crisis stifled progress towards a more development-friendly trade regime as countries focused on their bilateral interests, with some openly advocating more protectionist policies. The loss of momentum was particularly evident in the Economic Partnership Agreement process between the EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Caribbean (ACP) Group, where the never-ending negotiations contributed to diminished trust between the two parties.

Against this backdrop, the importance of regional trade cooperation in forging common interests and rebuilding trust cannot be overstated. However, true integration requires coordinated actions at national and regional action to stimulate sufficient production capacities, trade flows and investment. Moreover, regional trade policies need to be closely aligned to national and regional development objectives if they are to contribute to inclusive growth.

ECDPM’s role

ECPDM’s trade and regional integration programme conducts action-oriented research and promotes informed dialogue between policymakers, the private sector and civil society actors aimed at stimulating new coalitions to pursue economic and trade reforms that foster inclusive growth. Recognising that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, a key strand in our work is analysing the impact of trade agreements on vulnerable groups such as small and medium enterprises, women and the youth. We also provide capacity development support for ACP trade negotiators to safeguard their national and regional development objectives in multilateral trade processes. Overall, the programme also strives to contribute to improved coherence between aid, trade and development policies as well as better approaches and methods for conducting public-private sector dialogue

Key partners

In 2012 we continued to build on the close partnerships we have established over the years with key policy institutions as well as private sector and civil society stakeholders in the ACP and EU. These include the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (TRAPCA), African Development Bank, World Bank and UN Economic Commission for Africa. Other research partners were: United Nations University Institute for Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS); International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP); Saana Consulting the South-North Network and the Network of Regional Integration Studies (NETRIS). We also initiated collaboration with regional players such as the Regional Multidisciplinary Centre of Excellence of COMESA (RMCE) in Mauritius, the Africa Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) in Ghana and the African Integration House in Kenya. 

Highlights of our activities in 2012

  • As the ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreement process marked its 10th anniversary with little progress made, we continued to disseminate our non-partisan analysis and facilitate dialogue among a broad range of stakeholders to explore possible ways forward.
  • We provided support to key African regional institutions, including the African Union Commission and Regional Economic Commissions, to help translate their ambitious regional trade integration agenda into realistic building blocks. 
  • We expanded our work on regional Aid for Trade (AfT) to enhance synergies with ongoing work on regional agricultural markets for improved food security.  

Click here for a detailed report of our programme activities in 2012.

 Key Outputs in 2012

  • We provided non-partisan analysis and advice to try to unlock the EPA negotiations, now in their tenth year. The publication GREAT Insights featured specials on trade and development, trade and human rights and regional integration dimensions. These were consistently cited as the most reliable and comprehensive information source on the EPA process.
  • ECDPM presented its analysis of the status of the EPA negotiations and possible ways forward to coordinating meetings of the African Union in Kigali and Rwanda and to an ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Committee in Brussels.
  • We participated in the ‘Friends of EPAs’ network of EU member states, and facilitated a European NGO debate asking ‘Is 10 years enough?’
  • In collaboration with the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) we produced a scoping study on the political economics of regional integration in Southern Africa, leading regional stakeholders to seek concrete examples of where regional cooperation has had a positive impact on citizens and local businesses.
  • With the COMESA Secretariat, we reviewed Eastern and Southern Africa’s performance in implementing the aid for trade agenda and some of the challenges ahead. ECDPM was then asked to support similar work for West Africa (ECOWAS) and Southern Africa (SADC).