NGOs denounce EU pressure over new African Trade deals

Published: 14 February 2007

African Union & UN conclude no region ready to sign EPA this year.

An informal coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations including 11.11.11, ActionAid, Bread for the World, Church Development Service, 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 Economic Partnership Agreements (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 finalize 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 issuing warnings of costs that will be incurred if countries do not sign EPAs by the end of the year, but this is nothing compared to the damage of agreeing deals that they are not prepared for and that do not reflect their development needs,” said Marc Maes of 11.11.11. “The EU Commission should stop bullying developing countries into submission and instead work with them to overcome the obstacles to a mutually acceptable proposal.”

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, Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Afrika-Europa Netwerk Netherlands, Both ENDS, Bread for the World, Campagna per la riforma della Banca Mondiale Italy, Christian Aid UK and Ireland, Church Development Service (EED), CNCD-11.11.11, Comité français pour la solidarité internationale (CFSI), Danish Association for International Cooperation, Enda, EuropAfrica, Finnish NGDO platform to the EU, FinnChurchAid Finland, Friends of the Earth Finland, IBIS – Education for Development, Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), KASA (Ecumenical Service for Advocacy Work on Southern Africa), KOSA (Coordination Southern Africa), KEPA Finland, Manitese Italy, MWENGO, Oxfam International, SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), SOS Faim Belgique, Tearfund, Trade Watch, Traidcraft, Vredeseilanden, World Economy, Ecology & Development (WEED), World Rural Forum

Contact Information


- Marc Maes, 11.11.11, Brussels, (Dutch, French, English),, +32 497 600 442
- Luis Morago, Oxfam International, Brussels, (Spanish, English),, +3225021941
- Sophie Powell, Trade Policy Adviser, Traidcraft,, +44 20 7242 3955
- Mariano Iossa, ActionAid, Brussels, (English, Spanish, French and Italian); ; +32 484 374236
- Alexandra Burmann, Bread for the World and Church Development Service, (German, English),, +49 160 - 720 58 52
- Bibiane Mbaye, Enda, (French, English), + 221 821 70 37,
- Mohamet Lamine Ndiaye, Oxfam in Senegal, (French, English), +221 865 13 00,