Times of Swaziland | May 03,2009
COSATU calls for rejection of EU-SADC Partnership Agreement
By MDUDUZI MAGAGULA And SIBONGIL
MBABANE—The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is celebrating the rejection of European Union-SADC Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) negotiations by the governments of South Africa and Angola.
This follows the decision by both governments to scupper the negotiations for a free trade area between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states and the European Union (EU).
Of note is the fact that both countries have commanding economies in the region. Speaking through the organisation’s national spokesperson Patrick Craven, COSATU has urged Namibia, which is wavering, to follow the lead of these countries and refuse to sign.
The federation condemned the governments of Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique, which the organisation claims have caved in to pressure from the EU. COSATU is demo-nising the agreement because it believes it is totally against the interests of the people of these poverty-ridden countries.
The purpose of the IEPA is purportedly to create a legal framework for trade relations between SADC countries and the EU because of the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement preferences in 2007, which was said to contravene the World Trade Organisation (WTO), because it gave special tariff preferences to African countries and not to all WTO countries.
The urgency of the agreement is allegedly based on the need to create certainty among investors and to avoid a WTO challenge.
COSATU whose Secretary General is Zwelinzima Vavi, is lobbying for a snub of the agreement because it feels that the agreement does not in essence protect SADC countries with their frail economies as claimed by its proponents.
The organisation believes that the agreement has ulterior motives which would have detrimental effects to these unsuspecting countries who have already committed themselves to the agreement and thus should be rejected.
In a communiqué to this newspaper, the organisation claims that, “the hidden purpose of the agreement is to open SADC markets to foreign competition, whist the SADC countries including SA, are not ready to compete on an equal basis with foreign industries.”
COSATU believes that the main purpose of the agreement is to capture the SADC market for narrow European interests.
Why Agreement should be kicked out
Mbabane— COSATU’s main concerns on the EU-SADC IEPA are mainly centred around the long-term performance of SADC economies with the current agreement in force.
The organisation believes that SADC is not ready for the challenges that would come with the agreement.
It believes that the agreement would bring about an unnecessary entrenchment of neo-liberal macro-economic policy framework that undermines the rights of workers and the poor will definitely be first to feel the pinch.
The organisation has also observed that the deal will bring about fragmentation of efforts towards regional and continental integration and such would have devastating effect on SACU as it would threaten its very existence.
It also states that the agreement would also push for the removal of policy space for countries to pursue industrial development.
“It is an attempt to reinstate failed or processes still under negotiation in the WTO, and has the potential to worsen the impact of the devastative economic crisis, on-involvement of civil society and labour in the negotiations.
The organisation states that it is not happy with the clandestine nature in which the negotiations have been conducted.
Political will needed to reject IEPA
Mbabane— COSATU is mobilising for a political intervention in the whole agreement negotiations.
The organisation believes that the situation in which SADC countries find themselves in is dire and as such a political will and decisiveness on the part of governments is required. The organisation has also invited other labour and all stakeholders to rally behind the call to stop the signing of on the Interim EPA as planned for May 7, 2009 in Brussels.
COSATU claims that it would intensify popular mobilisation on the awareness of the dangers posed by the agreement which it claims is a daylight rip-off. “Working together with our counterparts in the region, organised under the auspices of SATUCC, we should reject such neo-liberal re-colonisation tactics of the European Commission.
COSATU considers picketing
MBABANE— COSATU is planning to take drastic measures to try and highlight the dangers posed by the purported EU agreement which has already been signed by some SADC countries.
In a communiqué to this newspaper, the organisation revealed its frustrations that some SADC countries have already embraced the agreement that it believes should be kicked out of this region to protect the regional economy and the workers.
The organisation claims that seemingly some countries are either ignorant of the long-term consequences of the agreement or are being bullied by EU.
As a means to counter the EU motives, the organisation states that, “we are seriously considering picketing at EU offices to expose the naked re-colonisation and plunder.” The organisation states that, “the current text should be rejected on the basis that it does not promote regional integration as it might weaken the SACU and SADC efforts to integrate regional economies.”
COSATU claims that through SATUCC it would popularise the anti-developmental and imperialist approach adopted by the EC in the IEPA negotiation, including the divide-and-rule tactics used by the EC against SADC countries.
The organisation urges SADC member states to enter any economic partnership with any outside bloc as a collective or bloc too. Furthermore, SACU members should also enter into the agreement as a bloc as required by the SACU Agreement.