Unfair trade deals undermine partnership, says Oxfam ahead of EU-Africa summit

“The free trade deals Europe is negotiating with Africa threaten to undermine development and push people further into poverty”
Published: 6 December 2007

The free trade deals Europe is negotiating with Africa threaten to undermine development and push people further into poverty, said Oxfam today on the eve of a summit in Lisbon aimed to promote partnership between the two blocs. Oxfam is calling on the EU to be more flexible and allow extra time for the negotiations.

The free trade deals Europe is negotiating with Africa threaten to undermine development and push people further into poverty, said Oxfam today on the eve of a summit in Lisbon aimed to promote partnership between the two blocs.
 
As officials prepare to travel to the EU-Africa summit for a weekend of talks on issues ranging from climate change, trade and economic integration, to peace and security, efforts to finalize a range of trade agreements between the EU and four African regions were intensifying.

The deadline for the deals is December, but so far only some countries from two of the four regions have initialed interim deals, and none are fully completed.

Amy Barry, Oxfam spokeswoman at the summit said: "It is ironic that on the eve of a summit that is meant to be about partnership, the EU is placing enormous pressure on developing countries to sign up to free trade deals that may be very harmful for their economic development".

"Many African governments have expressed concern about the content and schedule for these negotiations, as have a range of others, including civil society groups, trade unions and the IMF, and yet the EU is being inflexible and insisting on the deadline. If the wrong sort of deals are agreed many very poor people will lose their jobs, and spending on health and education could fall."

Oxfam is calling on the EU to be more flexible and allow extra time for the negotiations. The interim deals already initialed must have maximum flexibility built in, and long phase in periods.

At the same time as leaders are gathering in Lisbon, the UN climate change conference will enter its second week in Bali. Oxfam is calling on rich countries to help poor nations cope with the damaging effects of climate change and to agree targets to cut emissions with a view to keeping future warming at less than 2°C.

The IPCC has described Africa as "the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of projected [climate] change". Amy Barry: "Climate change is already hitting the poorest people hardest, undermining their efforts to get out of poverty. Rich countries must stop harming and start helping."

A recent report published by Oxfam estimated that at least $50bn a year will be needed to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change. Of this, the EU is responsible for 30%, an estimate based on past emissions and ability to pay.

Notes to Editors

• Oxfam will have spokespeople available from the EU and Africa, for interviews in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English on issues including trade, climate change and Darfur.

• We will take part in a demonstration against unfair trade deals, along with farmers groups from Portugal and Africa, at 13.00 on Friday Dec 7, in the Gare do Oriente. There will be a large map of Africa, which will be dismantled by people dressed as EU officials.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Ana Damasio (Spain), +34 616 878113 or +351 93 286 60 22
Amy Barry (UK), +44 7980 664397 or+ 351 93 693 33 95