Entangled EU trade and migration policies harm not help North Africans: Oxfam

Published: 11th November 2020

Unfair, incoherent and duplicit EU trade policies in North Africa have contributed to job losses, brain drains and overwhelmingly negative impacts on those who can least afford it, an Oxfam analysis released today has found.

The report, Incoherent At Heart, investigates how two decades of asymmetrical trade and migration negotiations between the EU and North Africa, in particular in Tunisia and Morocco, have harmed livelihoods and opportunities for people in the countries, while both creating incentives for migration to Europe and preventing this migration to take place.

Oxfam MENA’s senior policy advisor Nabil Abdo said that when the currently paused Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) negotiations reconvene, migration and trade liberalization policies must be rebalanced.

"Twenty years of policy incoherency have caused deep harm for the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the population in North Africa"

MENA’s senior policy advisor Nabil Abdo

‘Twenty years of policy incoherency have caused deep harm for the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the population in North Africa. The current combination of trade policy measures has stagnated economic development, obliterated sectors such as agriculture and textiles, without considering consequences and have been coopted by the EU migration agenda’

‘While the intertwined trade and migration policies have had mixed consequences, the human and social impacts in countries show us that the EU has been the clear winner while Tunisians and Moroccans are the losers in these agreements. The Coronavirus means both countries need trade policies that work for them more than ever,’ adds Abdo.

The report found that the current approach to policy making prioritized liberalization of North African markets that resulted in loss of employment in agricultural and manufacturing sectors and increased informal and under-employment. However, this policy is often at odds with the EU’s attempts to prevents migration through securitization and other snap interventions.

Oxfam warns that without tailoring approaches, the harmful combination of policies will continue to underdeliver to people in the region and threaten to exacerbate already gross inequalities.

“The pause in DCFTA negotiations because of the pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink and redefine existing policy models and develop tailored, coherent, approaches to Tunisia and Morocco that combat, not contribute to unemployment, loss of public services and drivers of inequalities,’ says Abdo.

“The EU, Morocco and Tunisia all must take responsibility for the path the negations have taken and commit to synchronizing economic policies that work to the benefit and rights of all their citizens”.

Oxfam calls on the EU, Morocco and Tunisia to ensure that any resumption of negotiations support fair and inclusive recovery for all people living in North Africa, which at their core must aim to reduce inequality and promote prosperity and development.

Notes to editors

Contact information

Roslyn Boatman in Tunis, Tunisia | +216 21359002 | skype: roslyn.boatman

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