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A global call for action to stop EPAs


From the 27-30 March, 2006 we the undermentioned organisations involved in the Stop-EPA campaign, from Africa and Europe met in Harare, Zimbabwe, at meeting organised the umbrella of the Africa Trade Network. We deliberated on the developments since the campaign was adopted and discussed strategies for the coming period.

It has been two years since civil society organisations, social movements, and mass-membership organisations across Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Europe adopted the campaign to STOP the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) as currently designed and being negotiated between the European Union and ACP groups of countries.

The campaign was adopted on the grounds that in their current form, the EPAs are essentially free-trade agreements between unequal parties: Europe, with its overwhelming economic and political power, and the fragile and dependent economies of the ACP countries. In addition, the process of the negotiations is imbalanced and rushed, allowing the EU to impose its interests and agenda, and dictate the momentum of the negotiations to suit its own needs and purposes.

Two years since the adoption of the campaign, there is wide-spread recognition among governments, inter-governmental institutions, parliamentarians, civil society actors and a diverse range of social constituencies across the ACP, Europe and the rest of the world of the dangers posed by the EPAs to the economies and peoples of the ACP countries. This has yet not led to fundamental changes in the nature of the EPAs and the process of negotiations.

Member governments of the European Union, which have publicly adopted policy positions in direct contradiction to the negotiating mandate of the EC, have not followed up with action to change that mandate. Strong unofficial reservations expressed by other member-governments continue to remain as unofficial reservations.

For its part, the European Commission has constructed new rhetoric to sell the EPAs and justify continuation of its mandate. It has encouraged false hopes of increase in European development assistance to ACP countries, and used different forms of pressure, including aid conditionality, to continue to override the reluctance of ACP groups to yield to its interests.

On the part of governments in the ACP countries, individual and collective public positions, which have effectively repudiated the EPAs in their current forms are not translated into policy and negotiating positions. Dependency on aid, and concern for the maintenance of preferences seem to have disproportionately influenced governments into accepting the ECs terms and parameters of negotiations. In some instances, secretariats of the regional groups and machineries whose role it is to facilitate the negotiations on behalf of the ACP groupings have abandoned the policy directions of national governments which make up the region, and have tended to promote the perspectives of the EC.

An immediate outcome of these developments is the negative effect of the EPA negotiations on autonomous ACP regional integration initiatives. On-going regional integration initiatives and processes have been hijacked and diverted, and many historical and political African regional configurations have been split.

Added to the above situation, the current deadlock in the WTO negotiations has lead to increasing pressure on bilateral and regional free trade negotiations.

All these developments affirm validity of the positions and concerns of the STOP EPA campaign, and make its demands even more urgent.

We are inspired by the global mobilisation that the campaign has generated and welcome the increasing numbers of diverse groups of stakeholders and networks of actors who have joined or otherwise taken up the cause of the campaign.

Although civil society engagement with the EPA negotiations is increasing, we are still very much concerned by the lack of involvement of the majority of affected citizens, workers and farmers in ACP countries and the lack of openness and transparency in the negotiations.

We reaffirm the positions and demands of the STOP EPA campaign. We reject the EPAs in their current form. They will:

 expand Europe’s access to ACP markets for its goods, services, and investments; expose ACP producers to unfair European competition in domestic and regional markets, and increase the domination and concentration of European firms, goods and services;
 thereby lead to deeper unemployment, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity and social and gender inequity and inequality as well as undermine human and social rights;
 endanger the ongoing but fragile processes of regional integration among the ACP countries; and deepen - and prolong - the socio-economic decline and political fragility that characterises most ACP countries.

We re-affirm our demand for an overhaul and review of the EU’s neo-liberal external trade policy, particularly with respect to developing countries, and demanded that EU-ACP trade cooperation should be founded on an approach that:

 is based on a principle of non-reciprocity, as instituted in Generalised System of Preferences and special and differential treatment in the WTO;
 protects ACP producers domestic and regional markets;
 reverses the pressure for trade and investment liberalisation; and
 allows the necessary policy space and supports ACP countries to pursue their own development strategies.

In further pursuit of the goals and demands of the campaign we make the following demands.

Governments of the ACP countries
The primary responsibility for promoting the interests and needs of the people in ACP countries and of defending them against the ravages of free trade agreements with the EU lies with the governments in the ACP countries, both in their individual and collective capacities, acting at national, regional and ACP-wide levels. In this regard we call upon ACP governments:

 to heed to the call of their citizens over the EPAs and ensure that hopes over increased aid, and concerns about the future of preferences does not lead to sacrificing the economic and developmental future of their people;
 to live up to their policy statements and positions on the EPAs and to translate these into positions in the processes of engagement over the EPA;
 to reassert their policy authority on the negotiations over the regional secretariats, and to ensure that the latter do not undermine stated policy positions in the negotiations;

European Union - Member States
The European Union has a responsibility to live up to its stated developmental objectives. We demand that member-governments of the European Union should

 assert their authority over the EC on issues concerning ACP-EU co-operation for the promotion of sustainable development in the ACP countries;
 change the EC’s negotiating mandate in relation to the EPA negotiations; and to this end;
 ensure that the EPA review mandated for this year is comprehensive, all-inclusive, transparent, and substantive and places sustainable development at the centre.

Finally we call upon civil society organisations, social movements, and mass-membership organisations across the ACP and Europe to join the campaign, and engage with their governments on the issues of ACP development in relation to the EU.

Harare, Thursday, 30 March 2006

  1. Mwelekeo wa NGO (MWENGO), Zimbabwe
  2. Third World Network-Africa, Ghana
  3. ACDIC, Cameroon
  4. Alternative Information Development Centre
  5. AIPAD TRUST, Zimbabwe
  6. Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa (ANSA)
  7. Civil Society Trade Network of Zambia
  8. CECIDE, Guinea
  9. Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA), Ethiopia
  10. Economic Justice Network, South Africa
  11. ENDA, Senegal
  12. GENTA, South Africa
  13. GRAPAD, Benin
  14. InterAfrica Group, Ethiopia
  15. Labour and Economic Development Research Institute (LEDRIZ), Zimbabwe
  16. Malawi Economic Justice And Network
  17. Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN)
  18. SEATINI, Zimbabwe
  19. TradesCentre, Zimbabwe
  20. Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), Zimbabwe
  21. Action Aid
  22. ACORD
  23. Both Ends
  24. ChristianAid
  25. ICCO
  27. One World Action (VIA Project)
  28. Oxfam International
  29. Traidcraft
  30. 11.11.11