Cohesion, (non-)Domination, and Regional Organisations in the EU-SADC EPA Negotiations

Katharina L. Meissner, Centre for European Integration Research (EIF), University of Vienna

GLOBUS Research Paper 6/2020


One of the European Union’s (EU) aim is to boost regional economic integration among developing countries. The empowerment of regional organisations, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), suggests that the EU promotes global justice in the form of non-domination of actors in the Global South. Yet, scholarship has heavily criticised the EU for how it negotiated an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the SADC, arguing that it contributed to disturbing regional integration. Indeed, it is puzzling why the EU pursued a bilateral trade agreement with South Africa separate from SADC’s customs union, and why it negotiated an EPA with a limited SADC negotiating group rather than with the full regional organisation. By making use of the concept of cohesion and embedding this in a conception of justice as non-domination, I argue that the initial absence of SADC’s cohesion made the EPA negotiations vulnerable to a dominant EU. The empirical case of the EU-SADC EPA suggests that regional integration is necessary for realizing global justice. However, this working paper argues that regional organisations are not sufficient to achieve justice in the form of non-domination, but they need to be accompanied by cohesion or solidarity among their members. Non-domination as a principle of global justice therefore requires an enabling context of cohesive developing regions.

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Tags: Trade and development
Published Mar. 20, 2020 5:24 PM - Last modified Mar. 23, 2020 9:26 AM