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African Liberal Parties Want Benefits From Partnerships

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo

African Liberal Parties Want Benefits From Partnerships

25 February 2008

African Liberal parties, meeting in a General Assembly, that closed in Maputo on Saturday, have demanded that partnership agreements with the European Union should bring real advantages to Africa.

The African parties pledged to raise this concern at the next Congress of the Liberal International to be held in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, in May.

The Maputo meeting argued that African countries do not benefit from the current Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with Europe because they are forced to open their markets to European products, that are often subsidised, running the risk that incipient African industries will be obliterated.

Raul Domingos, the leader of the Mozambican Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD), which hosted the Maputo meeting, stressed that, in an environment of economic liberalization, there is no justification for Africa signing up to "unjust" agreements.

"During the next Congress of the Liberal International, motions will be presented suggesting a revision of the current terms of some agreements, otherwise we risk further impoverishment of Africa", he said.

The international officer of Senegal’s ruling Democratic Party (PDS), Mamadou Lamine Ba, argued along the same line, recalling that his country has already voiced its opposition to unfair commercial and economic agreements with the European Union.

"We will attain our goals in this field. We know the difficulties, but we have a strategy based on conviction, a fair project of dialogue and peace, in parallel with an economic project based on the creation of wealth through the promotion of the business community", he said.

The European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, has tried to convince African countries that EPAs offer the best route in the current context of liberalized economies and for stimulating regional economic integration.

Though some countries have already signed such agreements, many are still reticent because African produce may continue to face difficulties in entering the European market, due to non-tariff barriers such as rules of origin, while European exports to Africa will undercut the prices of local goods, and weaken African economies.

At the end of the meeting, the liberal parties expressed admiration for Mozambique’s political and economic stability, so different from what might have been expected from a country ruined by 16 years of wars of destabilization.