Apparently the European Parliament has just given an ultimatum to African countries to open their markets by 2014. If they fail to do that, African countries (well, excluding the very least developed countries) will lose the duty-free export rights to the EU.
In my opinion:
- That’s blackmailing.
- if anyone in EU is truly committed to promote long-term development in Africa, then this will be a straight counter-productive action; moreover, quite few initiatives implemented by European Commission’s DG DEV and DG ECHO may simply be in vain, because economic development will be hindered by free, but unfair trade regime: it will make Africa’s export less competitive and will increase import from developed countries which will put an extra pressure on local markets and local producers.
- decision as to what economic policy a country wants to implement is its own sovereign right; forcing another country to adopt free market is intervention in its internal affairs. Right now, when, for example, IMF is telling Tories in UK that they have to stop the nasty austerity cuts, George Osborne is irritated by being told not only what to do, but to do to something which is opposite to what he is doing right now. African countries should also feel free to be irritated and do what is good for them not what they are told to do.
- opening of market should not be done just because everyone is doing it or because rich countries have done this or just because WTO or EU say. The question always should be asked – what’s the benefit of it and for whom? If the answer is that it is a road to prosperity and wealth, then this is complete misinformation; no developed country has achieved its prosperity through free market. Accumulation of resources and nurturing of national economies occurred during the long periods of protectionism (and in some cases, as we know – colonialism and slavery). African countries should be allowed to nurture and protect their national economies as long as they need, and only when they feel competitive enough to compete with the rest of the world, markets should be liberalized. It is a prerequisite for long-term development and escape form the trap of dependency. There is no shortcut.