EU’s Juncker eyes free trade pact with Africa

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a news conference on the Balkan refugee crisis at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, October 26, 2015. — Reuters pic
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a news conference on the Balkan refugee crisis at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, October 26, 2015. — Reuters pic

STRASBOURG, Sept 12 — The European Union should offer a free trade agreement to the whole of the African continent and a new investment alliance, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a keynote speech today.

Among various proposals for EU action to bolster prosperity in the world’s poorest continent and Europe’s close neighbour, the Commission chief called for a more equal partnership and investment rather than aid, as Europeans look for ways to stem an economic divide driving Africans to try to migrate northward.

Juncker said he had talked with African leaders and was proposing an alliance to boost sustainable investment, which he said could create up to 10 million jobs in Africa in the next five years.

While it was clear that a free trade pact would be some way off, and well after Juncker steps down in a year’s time, the EU would look to take advantage of African efforts to forge a free trade area within the continent to work towards a comprehensive continent-to-continent trade agreement.

Trade between Africa and Europe, said Juncker, was not insignificant — 36 per cent of Africa’s trade is with the European Union, compared to 16 per cent with China and 6 per cent with the United States.

“But this is not enough,” Juncker told the European Parliament.

“I believe we should develop the numerous European-African trade agreements into a continent-to-continent free trade agreement, as an economic partnership between equals.”

The European Union already has a series of deals with individual African countries, largely in North Africa, as well as additional economic partnerships with African blocs, such as the Southern African Development Community.

Other agreements with other African blocs and countries, designed to increase access to the EU market and promote development, are pending or partly in place. — Reuters

Related Articles