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African leaders cautioned on EPAs

The Statesman, Ghana

African leaders cautioned on EPAs

By Fred Tettey Alarti-Amoako

2 July 2007

Africa Trade Network and Economic Justice Network of Ghana, both civil society organisations have issued a strong warning to African Governments to desist from signing up on the EU-led Economic Partnership Agreements aimed at establishing a new WTO compatible trading arrangement, removing progressively barriers of trade between EU and Africa.

The Free Trade Agreements will eliminate trade barriers on more than 90 percent of EU-Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific trade within the shortest possible transitional time period.

The Europe’s EPA agenda opens up African markets to highly subsidised European products and that will further deepen the crisis faced by domestic industries which will lead to loss of jobs and livelihoods.

Tetteh Hormeku of the ATN and Head of Programmes at the Third World Network said the move will pose grave dangers to the people and economies of Africa and governments within the continent will suffer huge losses of revenue since they deprive a substantial portion of tax revenue from duties on imports from Europe, a major trading partner.

In a workshop under the theme, "Pan-African Stop EPAs People Forum" on Friday, Tetteh Hormeku threw a challenge to his African counterparts to do everything possible to stop African leaders from pursuing the EU agenda for the EPA negotiations.

He explained that the trade agreements will create space for explorations of African people.More than 159 civil society organisations across the globe have signed up to a document rejecting the EU trade offer to Africa.

Since 2002, the European Union and countries of the Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Group have been negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements as part of the Cotonou Agreement.

EPAs aim to establish "new WTO compatible trading arrangements removing progressively barriers of trade between EU and ACP countries" which would build on "regional integration initiatives of ACP states" and promote "sustainable development and contribute to poverty eradication in the ACP countries."

But experts say the EPAs undermine Africa’s own agenda of regional integration, as the different regional economic communities of the continent are transformed into separate free trade areas with Africa, dealing directly with Europe rather than with each other; with European goods and investors replacing those from the different African regions, deepening further blows to the already fragile inter-Africa trade and investment.