Oxfam warns that rushed trade deals pose serious risks to poor countries’ development

“With 6 weeks left before the end of year deadline not one ACP region has signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.”
Published: 19 November 2007

As EU Development Ministers gather in Brussels to discuss Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) on 20 November, Oxfam is concerned that signing temporary “framework agreements” currently proposed by the European Commission (EC) would still have profound negative impacts on the economies of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and undermine regional economic integration.

Luis Morago, Head of Oxfam’s EU office, said: "EU Development Ministers must address the fact that the pressure caused by uncertainty over what will happen next year to ACP exports puts ACP countries between a rock and a hard place: either sign a deal you don’t believe to be in your interests or risk losing your exports to the EU. The talks need more time and so Ministers must demand that the EC looks at other options whether that be continuing of current preferences or offering an enhanced version of the GSP scheme."

With 6 weeks left before the end of year deadline not one ACP region has signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. Greater progress was expected after the summer break, particularly in the Caribbean, Pacific and Central Africa regions, but despite regular negotiators’ meetings it has not happened, revealing that fundamental differences remain. West Africa has stated it will not sign an EPA by the end of the year. The Eastern Africa region is now at risk of splitting with sub-groups negotiating separately to the detriment of the larger region’s economic integration.

The EC’s determination to conclude the deals, even if this means signing a jumble of bilateral arrangements with individual countries or sub-regions, raises serious doubts about its commitment to existing regional economic integration progresses. As African Heads of State prepare for next month’s EU-Africa Summit EPAs threaten to dominate talks, particularly on trade. President Wade of Senegal warned last week that EU-African relations are “broken” and in need of a new partnership.

Morago added, “The EU-Africa Summit is meant to herald the start of a new partnership. Most African countries are not convinced that what the EU has put on the table is worth signing. European and African leaders should take this opportunity to step back, rethink their approach and focus on creating a truly development-focused partnership.”

Contact Information

For more information please contact:
Alexander Woollcombe
Media and Advocacy Officer
Oxfam International
Office: +32 (0) 22311663
Mobile: +32 (0) 486 842 407 or +32 473562260