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The Cotonou Trade Régime and WTO Law

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The purpose of this paper is to see how the trade régime created by the new Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) signed in 2000 tried to deal with the problem of the incompatibility between Lomé Convention trade preferences and the WTO Law. The first part tries to highlight the incompatibility between the trade preferences and the WTO Law before showing that the CPA has maintained the trade preferences, although on a temporary basis. This has been made possible in part thanks to a waiver exceptionally given by the WTO competent organs, which allows otherwise unlawful preferences for the time being. The second part argues that despite the maintenance of the preferences to a certain extent, the CPA in fact introduces a new era in the EC-ACP Trade relations characterised by a clear will of harmonising their own legal instruments with the WTO legal régime. This desire to standardise is illustrated by: the integration of WTO principles governing South-North relations like the Special and Differentiated Treatment principle (SDT), adopting this Organisation's trade concepts, but also by the establishment of a concrete negotiation timetable, in theory to allow the achievement of a full harmonisation by 2020. Thus it has been argued that the Lomé era is being followed by a transition period that should lead to a completely new trade régime, or to many partial régimes, which could render the existence of the ACP countries as a single group less relevant than in previous times.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: ATER, CERIC, Université d’Aix-Marseille III

Publication date: July 1, 2004


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