Oxfam dismayed by EU failure to lift trade threat on poor nations

Published: 12 December 2007

International agency Oxfam today expressed grave concern that the EU is set to increase significantly import tariffs on poor countries' goods from next year, with a potentially devastating impact on economic growth and regional integration.

In a meeting yesterday to discuss new trade agreements due to be finalized between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries by December 31, EU Foreign Ministers confirmed that any countries failing to agree deals by the end of the year would face an increase in tariffs on goods they sell to the EU.

The decision was taken despite concerns raised by some Member States, including the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland.

Luis Morago, Head of Oxfam International's EU Office, said: "The cost of this could be enormous. In Namibia, for example, exports of beef, fish and grapes worth €45m ($66m) will be lost overnight if they don't sign – this is equivalent to four times the amount the EU gives them in aid each year. *

"The EU has forced countries to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea. Countries either sacrifice their current exports, which provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and vital revenue, or they sign up to deals which will undermine future industrial growth and expose vulnerable subsistence farmers to unfair, subsidized European competition."

So far, fewer than 20 of the total 76 countries have initialed deals, but the remainder is under enormous pressure to fall in line before the deadline. **

Oxfam is urging EU Member States to challenge the European Commission's position and argue for more time for the negotiations. In 2000, when negotiations began, the EU promised that no country would be left worse off by signing an Economic Partnership Agreement, but that does not look likely to be the case.

Countries that have signed interim deals should be giving the opportunity to renegotiate problematic clauses that will prove detrimental to development.

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