Oxfam demands trade relief for countries affected by tsunami

Published: 1 November 2005

Reacting to yesterday's announcement by the European Commission that it is "seeking trade measures" to relieve tsunami victims, Oxfam said that EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson should act immediately by removing all tariffs on textiles and clothing imports to the EU from affected countries.

Reacting to yesterday's announcement by the European Commission that it is "seeking trade measures" to relieve tsunami victims, Oxfam said that EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson should act immediately by removing all tariffs on textiles and clothing imports to the EU from affected countries.

In Sri Lanka, clothing accounts for half of all export earnings and the industry employs 350,000 workers, 85 per cent of whom are women. Oxfam estimates that last year, on clothing alone, the EU levied US$75 million in taxes on Sri Lankan products and US$179 million on Indonesian products. This is more than a third of the amount of aid that the European Commission has pledged to the tsunami disaster.

Offering affected countries improved market access for their clothing and footwear exports would sustain tens of thousands of jobs and generate desperately needed foreign exchange.

"The EU has been generous with its aid to the tsunami victims but by charging these import taxes they are giving with one hand and taking with the other," warned Jo Leadbeater, Head of Oxfam's EU Advocacy Office. "The EU could do as much again to help affected countries by changing its trade rules and offering debt relief as they have already with pledges of direct aid money."

Oxfam is launching a major campaign action today asking its supporters to email Commissioner Mandelson and ask him to help Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to rebuild their shattered communities by adjusting European trade rules now.

"The EU preaches the benefits of trade, but if there is ever a time when action must match words, this is it. With the support of the Member States, the EU Trade Commissioner could end these crippling trade taxes and allow these countries to maintain tens of thousands of jobs and earn foreign exchange earnings they desperately need to rebuild their countries," said Leadbeater.

Contact Information

For more information, contact Louis Bélanger, Media Officer; Oxfam International EU Office, 32 2 502 03 91 or 32 4 73 562 260