Wednesday, February 14, 2007

NGOs denounce EU pressure over new African Trade deals

An informal coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations including 11-11-11, ActionAid International, Oxfam International, and Enda today called on the European Commission to stop pressuring Africa to agree new trade relationships by the end of the year, warning that the current proposals would have very damaging implications for development.

The NGO warning follows a meeting of UN experts, African trade ministers, and civil society representatives in Nairobi on Monday and Tuesday, in which a review of EPAs was discussed.

The review, carried out by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and endorsed by the African Union Trade Ministers, concludes that none of the four African regions have sufficient information or are adequately prepared to finalise deals in time for the official deadline of 31 December 2007. It also raises strong concerns about the capacity of developing countries to implement EPAs and highlights an 'alarming lack of transparency' in the negotiations.

Despite the clearly articulated concerns of African negotiators and observers on content and process, and a stated commitment that no country would be compelled to sign an EPA, the European Commission has been playing hardball over recent weeks, refusing to grant extra time, and issuing warnings about the negative results of not signing.

For example, West African and Central African negotiators were told last week by EU Commissioners, Peter Mandelson and Louis Michel that higher import duties would be re-imposed if EPAs were not concluded by 31 December 2007. In addition, promises of aid are being made conditional on the agreement of an EPA.

"This is tantamount to blackmail", said Bibiane Mbaye of Enda. "The EU has committed to ensuring that alternatives to EPAs are discussed, and that no country will be compelled to sign. However, now they are using the looming deadline to force countries into agreements that could be economically devastating".

"The implication is that there are no other alternatives, but this is not the case," said Luis Morago of Oxfam International. "What is lacking is political will from the EU. Instead of actively seeking ways to extend the deadline and ensure development-friendly deals, they are turning the screws on the African countries, and pushing them into agreements that will hurt poor farmers and undermine future industrial development."

"The EC is trying to sidestep a 'real' development deal by bullying ACP countries with threats of higher import duties", said Mariano Iossa of ActionAid "However, the Cotonou agreement clearly states that no ACP country should be worse off as a result of the negotiations".

The coalition believes:

  • Member States should pay more attention to the un-transparent way in which EPAs are being negotiated and the potentially negative impacts for development

  • Member States should ensure that the Commission extends trade preferences at the end of 2007 if EPA negotiations have not been concluded

  • Member States should ensure countries have sufficient information on the impact of an EPA to make an informed and pro-development decision and that alternatives to EPAs are fully explored

Signed by: 11-11-11, ActionAid International, Bread for the World, Church Development Service (EED), Danish Association for International Cooperation, Enda, Finnish NGDO platform to the EU, FinnChurchAid Finland, Friends of the Earth Finland, IBIS – Education for Development, Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), KOSA (Coordination Southern Africa), Oxfam International, SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), Tearfund, Traidcraft, World Economy, Ecology & Development (WEED), World Rural Forum

For more information, please contact one of the following spokespeople:

Source: ActionAid International press release

See also and Euforic dossiers on ACP trade, ACP-EU cooperation, Africa.