The enlarged nine-nation European Community is in the process of making several decisions of major importance to world development.
In May, a "high-level working party", composed of top civil servants from all nine nations, will report to the European Council of Ministers and make its recommendations on future EEC policy towards the developing world. As the world's largest aiding and trading bloc, the development policy of the European Community is vital to the progress of world development and many Third World nations are anxiously awaiting the conclusions of the working party.
By July 1st, the Council of Ministers must also decide on a common European negotiating position at the next round of G.A.T.T. talks which begin in Paris later this year. The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (G.A.T.T.) is the most important decision taking body in the regulation of world trade and tariff barriers. To the developing world, desperately trying to increase its exports in order to create more jobs and more revenue to finance development projects, the G.A.T.T. talks are vital, and the joint policy of nine major European nations is bound to be an important influence on the outcome of the proceedings.
The Council of Ministers must also decide soon on the Community's position in relation to the G.A.T.T. Long Term Agreement on Cotton Textiles, which is due to be re-negotiated this summer. Textile production employs more people in the developing world than any other single manufacturing industry and the rules restricting the import of low-cost textiles (i.e. textiles from poor countries) into the vast European market can make very significant differences to the unemployment and revenue prospects of the developing world.
Inter this year, preparations will also begin in Brussels for the re-negotiation of the European Community's sugar imports and the cane-sugar producing developing countries are actively lobbying for their interests to be taken into account. On current trends, European sugar-beet farmers, mainly in Britain and France, will be producing 7.5 million tons of sugar a year by 1974 - out of a total European sugar requirement of 9 million tons a year. The big question is whether the 1.5 million ton shortfall will be made up by expanded sugar-beet production in Europe, or whether it will be met by allowing Commonwealth cane-sugar producers to continue exporting sugar to Europe when the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement expires in 1974.
At the time of negotiating entry into the EEC, the British government failed to get "bankable assurances" that the fourteen developing countries who are now members of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement will be allowed to continue their sugar exports to Europe after 1974. At the time, the original six members of the Community said that they would re-negotiate Europe's sugar position in 1974, at the same time as the re-negotiation of the Yaounde Convention. But they did promise that they would have the interests of the Commonwealth cane-sugar producing countries "at heart". The issue now is - how seriously does Europe take this commitment? The French and British sugar-beet farmers, who want to expand their own production to meet Europe's needs, constitute a powerful political lobby. If the European Community yields to this pressure, it will be little short of disastrous for many of the poor nations who are heavily dependent on exporting cane-sugar for employment and for the revenue they need to help them develop and diversify. Many of the cane-sugar countries are already suffering chronic poverty and unemployment: only one school leaver in five in Mauritius, an island 90% dependent on sugar, has any chance of finding a job.
The supporters of the enlarged EEC have all along argued that a united Europe would be in a better position to do more for world development in terms of aid and trade. The anti-marketeers have countered that the EEC is an inward-looking rich man's club concerned only with its own increasing prosperity and careless of its responsibilities towards the world's poor. The next few months will indicate who is right.