EU Ministers must put brakes on reckless trade deals

Published: 21 September 2007

EU Development Ministers meeting in Portugal this weekend should demand that the European Commission (EC) scraps current proposals for free trade deals with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries because they will undermine poverty reduction, said Oxfam today.  

As the 31st December deadline looms ever closer with major differences remain unresolved, Ministers should seize this opportunity to convince the EC to go back to the drawing board. The current ambiguity over what will happen in January is already threatening jobs in the ACP.

Luis Morago, Head of Oxfam International’s Brussels Office said: “Ministers must raise the alarm on these potentially devastating free trade deals before they slip under the radar. Exporters to the EU don’t know what will happen in 2008 and this uncertainty puts jobs at risk. Across Africa livelihoods depend on these exports; the horticulture sector in Kenya alone supports 500,000 people. How will threatening these people help development?”

Last week, Peter Mandelson said that in the absence of an agreement, the Commission would be forced to raise tariffs. This move would have a disastrous impact on industries such as fisheries and horticulture in developing countries.

Despite the concerns of EU Member States, ACP governments, independent experts and civil society observers, the EC continues to insist that Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) negotiations will continue as before. Calls for an extension of talks or discussion of alternatives continue to fall on deaf ears even though in key areas talks remain blocked.

Perfectly feasible interim solutions (such as the enhanced Generalised System of Preferences - GSP+) that could take pressure off the deadline continue to be disregarded as the EC maintains that EPAs are the only possible option.

Unable to convince the ACP through negotiations the EC has resorted to unfair pressure. For example, the day before a major meeting of Pacific Trade negotiators in July in Vanuatu, an EC official sent an email stating that the Pacific’s allocation of European aid would be cut by 48% if it did not sign up to an EPA.

Morago said: “Threats to withhold aid and increase tariffs on ACP exports have not helped move the negotiations on but simply piled on the pressure in an entirely unjust way.”

Next Thursday, 27th September, 150 organisations in over 40 countries around the world will join together to campaign against the current deals and demonstrate the depth of public concern about proposed EPAs. For more information: www.epa2007.org 

Contact Information

For more information, contact Alexander Woollcombe on +32 (0) 223 11663