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32 J. World Trade 115 (1998)
Multilateralism and Africa's Regional Economic Communities

handle is hein.kluwer/jwt0032 and id is 613 raw text is: Journal of World Trade 32(4): 115-138 1998.
0 1998 Kluwer Law International. Printed in Great Britain.
Multilateralism and Africa's Regional Economic
Teshome MULAT*
In the late 1960s and early 1970s disappointments with the post-colonial economy
led to regionalism in parts of the Third World and encouraged South-South trade and
economic co-operation among developing countries. Such a move was also prompted
by the quest for non-alignment in the tug of the Cold War. The implication of this for
the development of domestic economic policy was also not supportive of trade
liberalization and multilateralism generally. Many countries adopted an import-
substitution industrialization strategy and opted for socialism. The nation State sought
to achieve by regionalism, bilateral trade, South-South co-operation and countertrade
certain basic needs and self-sufficiency goals which were deemed unattainable by
other means. Africa, if not an initiator of new development ideas, has shown an
inclination to paddle along current trends. However, two to three decades down that
route, many of the regional organizations in Africa, often hurriedly created, remained
in limbo, some kept changing their names and others eventually collapsed.' The attempt
to change the direction of trade also remained largely unrealized. Africa's share of world
trade, which was always small or even insignificant, fluctuated and reduced even further.
The terms of trade against African exports (except petroleum) continued to deteriorate
and the debt burden reached levels that required debt relief (involving mainly debt
cancellation and rescheduling negotiations with multilateral and bilateral creditors).
After the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the conclusion of the Uruguay
Round trade negotiations (which culminated in the establishment of the World Trade
Organization (WTO)), there appears to be a revival of both multilateralism and
regionalism. The European Union (EU) is again setting the example2 of engineering a
* Policy Analysis Support Unit (PAsu), the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The author would like to
thank Mr F. Alipui, Dr David F. Luke and Dr M.I. Mah'moud of the OAU for their comments on the original draft,
and acknowledges the financing of the study project by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF). The
views in this study are those of the author and not of the OAU.
I For example, the East African Community (formed in 1919) eventually collapsed. The West African Economic
Community (1970) was superseded by the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA), the
Preferential Trade Area (PTA) by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Customs
and Economic Union of Central African States (UDEAC) was transformed in 1997 to Communaut6 Economique
et Mon&aire de l'Afrique Centrale (CEMAC). Similar developments in Latin America are also widely reported. See,
for example, Diana Tussie (1987) The Less Developed Countries and the World Trading System: A Challenge to the GATT,
London: Pinter Publishers Ltd., at pp. 104-135.
2 As it did the first time around when it was established in 1957 as the European Economic Community.
Copyright © 2007 by Kluwer Law International. All rights reserved.
No claim asserted to original government works.

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