At the end of November, the European Union approved the launch of free trade talks with Morocco as part of an effort to upgrade existing agreements with southern Mediterranean countries. In an email interview, Susi Dennison, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, discussed the EU’s economic relationship with its southern neighbors.
WPR: What is driving the EU to seek upgraded free trade agreements with Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt?
Susi Dennison: After the revolutions in North Africa in early 2011, and the ensuing criticism of the EU’s failure to challenge the previous autocratic regimes, the EU committed to a complete renovation of its policy toward its southern and eastern neighborhood, with the twin goals of supporting “deep and sustainable democracy” and “inclusive economic development.” The EU promise was, quite simply, that it would offer more money, access to markets and mobility to those states that delivered more on domestic reform. Although the idea of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) predate the Arab uprisings, the commitment to moving them forward now should be seen as part of the market component of this revised package: an attempt to update trade deals that belong to an earlier moment.