Oxfam warns proposed new EU trade policy is 'development blind'

Published: 4 October 2006

The European Union's new external trade plans presented by Peter Mandelson today in Brussels will pose a serious threat to poor countries' development if implemented, said international agency Oxfam.

The EU is pushing an aggressive liberalization agenda in developing countries and trying to impose rules on competition, investment and government procurement that won't help development.

The new emphasis on regional and bilateral free trade deals will undermine multilateralism and calls into question the EU's stated commitment to the World Trade Organization negotiations.

"It seems the wolf has taken off its sheep's clothing. This is an extremely aggressive agenda that pays little more than lip service to development. The EU plan to use free trade deals to force concessions on issues that developing countries have repeatedly rejected at the WTO will undermine multilateralism and increase poverty and inequality," said Celine Charveriat, Head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign.

"It is astoundingly hypocritical for the EU to call on other countries to open their markets and deal with non-tariff barriers when they have similar barriers in place and continue to pay vast sums in trade-distorting farm subsidies," she added.

Oxfam is particularly concerned by:

  • The apparent intention to follow the US' lead in using Free Trade Agreements to force open developing countries markets and impose anti-development conditions on investment, competition, and government procurement that go well beyond WTO standards

  • Demands for a high level of reciprocity in trade negotiations, as opposed to acknowledgment of the need for special and differential treatment for developing countries and their right to protect products of vital importance to food security and livelihoods

  • Demands for stronger intellectual property rules and enforcement, which threaten to limit access to vital medicines for people in developing countries as well as depriving farmers of the right to ownership of seeds.

Charveriat: "This is not a plan for competitiveness but a plan for exporting inequality and poverty. Member States should send the Commission back to the drawing board."

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Amy Barry in Oxfam''s UK Press Office on +44 (0)1865 472498, or
Louis Belanger in Oxfam''s Brussels Office on +322502 0391