The African Continental Free Trade Area: Reflections of an International Trade Law Student (Part 2) by Prosper Batariwah

The European Union

In the last article, I discussed the origins, aims and potential benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Here, I delve into the European Union and its gains when it comes to economic integration and by extension, political integration.

The World Wars, especially the second one had sent Europe hollering down the drain. Economic prospects in various countries were not looking exceptionally bright. Economic integration was considered vital to the revival of Europe’s economy. Diligent efforts began in earnest when the European Steel and Coal Community was established by six countries in Europe: Luxembourg, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany. So, in 1957, the Treaties of Rome which established the European Economic Community (EEC) were signed. The EEC entered into force in 1958 and by late 1959, was operational. This led to the removal of several barriers to trade especially the removal of import restrictions by 1961.

This single market was seriously threatened during the latter part of the 20th century. The Gulf Oil Crises had hit Europe hard and countries, as well as the European Economic Community itself, had begun using a wave of protectionist policies against third states. However, the EEC realized that these practices were distorting the market and by extension, trade in Europe. The Single European Act then arose to achieve the single market by removing all kinds of unwholesome trade practices which were affecting the community.

The EEC was changed to the European Community under the new Maastricht Treaty in 1992. There was also a 1992 Internal Market Program to fulfill the intended aims of the Treaty of Rome by amongst many things, promoting liberalization and promoting movement.  Now the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 has completely absorbed the Economic Community into the framework of the European Union.

In terms of the trade, the European Union is a success story. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has estimated that intra-regional trade in Europe alone is about 67%. This can be substantially attributed to this regional economic community with twenty-eight members.