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Don’t sign the EPAs - coalition tells African gov’ts

Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra

Don’t Sign the EPAs - Coalition Tells African Gov’ts

By Joseph Coomson

9 July 2007

As December draws closer and intense pressure by the European Union (EU) is mounting on African governments to sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), African youth have their leaders not to sign.

The EPA, which is a reciprocal free trade agreement that the EU is negotiating on bilateral basis with African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries would force African countries to open up their economies for highly competitive European services and operations when it comes into being.

A group called the African Youth Coalition Against EPAs in a press statement said " African countries do not have the capacity to compete with EU goods and operations which would dominate African economies - thus leading to massive unemployment and loss of government’s revenue".

Mr. Ofosuhene Kwabena Okine, Chief Executive Officer of Abibiman Foundation and an executive of the coalition stressed that African countries do not stand the chance of making any gains in the current negotiations.

This is because African governments are negotiating through regional blocs such as the ECOWAS, EAC and SADC.

"These poor and weak blocs are negotiating with the EU which has a membership of 25 with a combined GDP of about $13.300 billion," he stated.

The press release further indicated that it was very evident that the EPAs would collapse African economies, hinder regional integration, aggravate regional segmentation and further worsen the poverty crisis bedeviling the continent.

Because of these problems, the collation is calling on African governments to ’Stop the EPAs’ and focus on how to improve its regional integration and economies.

"As today marks the mid-point of achieving the MDGs, we entreat the government of Ghana and Africa for that matter to double its efforts to achieving the goals by 2015," the statement said.

The coalition called for more advocacies, analysis and an increment in budgetary allocation to the health, gender, water and sanitation sectors of the economy.

On March 14, 2007, there was a consensus on Economic Partnership Agreements between EU and ACP Countries in Berlin, Germany after series of meetings.

The Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul stated in a concluding press conference with Hans-Joachim Keil, Associate Trade Minister of Samoa, that many questions had been successfully clarified during the dialogue: "There is a consensus and common understanding among EU and ACP member states that Economic Partnership Agreementss are to be an instrument for fighting poverty."

Minister Hans-Joachim Keil added: "We have made a lot of progress today. With the meeting we had today, the will is there and the understanding is there. Everybody is cooperating now to make sure that negotiations are completed within the tight timeframe of 2007."

The EPAs are going to provide a new basis for trade and economic relations between ACP countries and the EU.