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Working Paper 79 - Impacts and Challenges of Multilateral and Bilateral Trade Agreements on Africa


Africa’s trade negotiators have ‘punched above their weight’ in recent years, and they have needed to do so as patterns of trade are changing fast. Change is under way in relation to the goods that are exported, imported and consumed locally; all with the effect of Africa being squeezed. Its status as a favoured recipient of trade preferences in some markets (but not in others) is being eroded rapidly. Increasingly its terms of access to non-regional markets will be on the same basis as its competitors’.

Consequently, the attention of trade policy makers has shifted from Brussels to Geneva. Yet, as the stalled Doha process attests, the multilateral system is still perceived as insufficiently attuned to Africa’s needs. At the same time the region is being asked by some of its traditional trade partners to offer reverse preferences under the guise of free trade agreements (FTAs). These are being presented as supportive of both regional integration and the multilateral system, but it is not certain that the result will help either of these.

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