FARM, Notre Europe and Pluriagri, three French not-for-profit organizations, jointly organized a conference on "What future framework for agricultural policies in Europe and developing countries" on November 27-29, 206 in Paris. Three half-days were devoted to sessions on the Econmic Partnership Agreements.
The future of agriculture in Europe and in the developing world was the heart of the matter at a recent international conference organized jointly by Pluriagri, Notre Europe, and the Foundation for World Agriculture and Rural Life.
The idea behind the triple event was to achieve maximum benefit by promoting debate and exchange across the range of studies and presentations reflecting each organizer’s specificity. Pluriagri reported the results of recent work modeling international primary goods markets, Notre Europe presented analyses of European agriculture in preparation for Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy reform due in 2013, while FARM focused on the proposed Economic Partnership Agreements slated for 2008 between the EU and several developing regions.
The experiment was a striking success, as judged by the vigor and density of debate. In particular the stimulating participation of African farmers showed that agricultural professionals everywhere have a good deal more in common than they have differences. The future of agricultural markets and the determination of policy responses were of interest equally to farmers from the North and the South.
The other achievement of the conference was to foster dialogue among experts, notably economists, agronomists, sociologists, agri-business and farmers, as well as participants from European institutions and from a number of ACP states.
The first day of the event was a chance to debate the impact that demand for biofuels is likely to have on the price of cereals, oleoproteins and sugar, while taking into account not only recent technologies but also coming technological breakthroughs.
The morning session of the second day was devoted to analyzing the health, environmental and territorial demands European societies are increasingly making on agriculture, with a particular emphasis on trends in new member States.
The three half-day sessions organized and led by FARM were given over to a lively exploration of the extent to which the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) proposed by the EU represent a chance for agriculture in ACP countries. New studies and syntheses demonstrate the importance of establishing true regional markets if local production is to be given a real opportunity, especially fresh goods, dairy and meat. In order to benefit fully from the EPA, the transition period must be long, sensitive productions must be protected, regional policies strengthened, and significant amounts of money invested in agriculture. European Commission representatives taking part in the debate reiterated the EC’s commitment to establishing the best conditions possible for development, whether that involves tariffs, delayed implementation, or aid for investments.
Finally, the conference was the occasion for several high-visibility individuals preoccupied by agriculture and development to speak to the issues : French agriculture minister Dominique Bussereau, Soumaïla Cissé, President of the Commision of the West African Monetary Union, Erik Orsenna, member of the French Academy, former agricultural ministers Henri Nallet and Edgard Pisani, former World Bank agriculture chief Bernard Petit, West African growers representative Mamadou Cissokho, former prime minister of Niger Ibrahim Mayaki, Economic Analysis Council president Christian de Boissieu, French growers representative Xavier Beulin and others.
The studies and analyses presented underlined the room for manoeuvre which does exist for ACP countries.
The EPAs are asymmetrical since the portion of its trade that can be excluded from the agreement by an ACP country is negotiable. ACP countries can thereby establish a list of import-sensitive products and set the rules for trade in the goods whose domestic production is the most vulnerable.
The Cotonou Agreement calls for the development of regional tariff unions. Turning such unions into real regional markets is one way that ACP countries can develop their supply side which in turn is a key to successful competition with European goods.
The 10th European Development Fund, with a budget of 22 billion euros, will likely help ACP countries to adjust their policies in the face of disappearing tariff barriers (tariff revenues account for an average 25% of State income in ACP countries), and also to invest in infrastructure needed for fostering regional markets, such as roads.
When looked at in this way, ACP countries do face the possibility of benefiting from the EPAs. On another front, conference debate covered some of the technical aspects of this question, such as the impact of non-tariff norms on agricultural trade between the EU and ACP countries. Lastly, decision-makers and negotiators demonstrated an increasingly political approach to negotiation. All conference speeches and presentations are available in the following section.