Doesn’t the EU ruin Africa with tariffs?

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A common myth circulating around is that the EU ‘starves’ Africa into submission with the tariff schedule it has. While it can certainly be argued that some policies of the EU are protectionist and may harm other parts of the world potentially, the tariff claim isn’t quite the complete truth.

The EU is actually a world leader in helping out the poorest countries in the world through its trade policies. ‘Everything But Arms‘ is an EU policy where no tariffs are placed on exports from the least developed countries (as defined by the United Nations), except on weapons. This helps the poorest countries out, and counters the claim that the EU starves Africa with tariffs on roasted coffee, for example, as they do not apply to these countries. There are currently 49 countries benefiting from this scheme, most of which are in Africa, and it’s a scheme the UK has indicated it will continue post-Brexit.

The EU also has the ‘GSP+‘ scheme, where countries benefit from reduced tariffs if they ratify and implement 27 environmental, human rights and labour conventions from a list that the EU has produced. 9 countries currently benefit from this scheme. This is in addition to the normal GSP scheme, which also reduces tariffs for developing countries. 18 countries benefit from this scheme. Overall, 41 African countries out of 54 benefit from some form of preferential tariff treatment, in addition to those countries outside of Africa. It is worth noting also that there are trade deals at various stages of negotiation or implementation.with various African countries which also affect the tariff rates.

Finally, the EU and its member states are also the largest humanitarian and development aid donors each year. While only a small proportion of the EU budget is used for these purposes, the EU facilitates a framework within which its member states and other actors can coordinate their actions and maximise their impact, something that may not exist otherwise.

Contrary to the popular myth that the EU is destroying Africa with high protectionist tariffs, he poorest countries in the world benefit from preferential rates. Either there are no tariffs, or the rate is reduced compared to the normal.