Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar08/03)
African Civil society groups urge a stop to EPAs
Published in SUNS #6425 dated 29 February 2008
group of over fifty civil society and social movements from Africa have
called for a stop to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between
Europe and the African,
group's call came in a declaration that was issued at a meeting of the
Africa Trade Network - comprising more than fifty social movements and
civil society organizations - in
The groups demanded that the "interim" agreements that have been entered into be nullified, and that options such as enhanced GSP Plus and the Everything-But-Arms initiative be utilized. They also said that there must be no negotiations on services, investment, intellectual property, competition, government procurement and any other new issues.
their call to action against what they termed as Europe's "aggressive"
economic agenda in
"We, civil society organisations, including farmers, workers, women's, faith-based and students' groups and organisations, call on our people to redouble their efforts to stop the self-serving free trade agreements, misleadingly designated as Economic Partnership Agreements' that Europe seeks to impose on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and which will destroy the economies of these countries," said the declaration.
added that when the EPA negotiations were launched, civil society organisations
from all over Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and
"We pointed out that the EPAs posed a threat not only specifically to government revenue, local producers and industries, food sovereignty, essential public services, and the regional integration of African countries; but also to the right and capacity in general of African countries to develop their economies according to the needs of their people and their own national, regional and continental priorities."
The latest developments in these negotiations have exposed even more sharply the fundamental outrage represented by the EPAs, the civil society organizations said.
declaration noted that at the end of 2007,
capitalised on the fact that, for historical reasons, a few export sectors
more vulnerable African governments were forced to concede to
Interim Economic Partnership Agreements reveal Europe's true face, said
the declaration, pointing out that the deals are classical free trade
agreements that clearly serve
the claims about supporting
Merely to secure a level of market access that is remarkably similar to previous levels, ACP countries involved in the interim agreements have had to concede to opening up their economies to historically unprecedented levels even beyond the commitments required at the multilateral level.
addition, said the groups,
provisions only serve to lock in further these countries into
Throughout the negotiating process, aid has been used as a bait to lure African governments into long and protracted debates, which have diverted attention from the fundamental economic issues at stake and misled them into taking on onerous commitments. As the "Interim" deals make abundantly clear, promises of additional financing are illusory, said the declaration.
noted that the negotiating agenda for 2008 aims to deepen the above
This is a clear breach of the understanding on which they were provisionally initialled - namely that the deals were merely a means to avoid possible retaliation at the WTO and that any contentious elements would be renegotiated, the groups maintained.
rules will take away the right of African governments to manage investment
and investors in ways that serve
it is clear more than ever, that the EPAs are Europe's means of locking-in
the fundamentally unequal relationships between Africa and
is more urgent now than ever that
These include that:
-- The "interim" agreements that have been entered into are nullified; and, to avoid threats of trade disruption, utilize options such as enhanced GSP Plus and Everything-But-Arms;
-- There must be no negotiations on services, investment, intellectual property, competition, government procurement and any other new issues in order to ensure that all sovereignty on these issues is retained at the national and regional levels;
There must be a return to our own development agendas based on national
priorities within consolidated regional communities in
Any relationship between Africa and
groups saluted the majority of African governments that have so far-resisted
any form of agreement with
groups also called on civil society organisations and other citizens