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EPAs are a slap in the faces of poor countries, CSOs warn

Public Agenda | Accra | 2 May 2006

EPAs are a slap in the faces of poor countries- CSOs warn

Jonathan Adabre

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), currently negotiated being between African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACPs) and the European Union are set to further reduce incomes of farmers and agric-related employees by 50-60%, Anti-EPAs campaigners have said.

The Anti-EPAs campaigners made up of Oxfam (GB), COMIC RELIEF (UK), the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), and the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU). MAPRONET, Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) and ORCADE, INTERMON and CPF from Burkina Faso stated this position after the ECOWAS Trade week held at Navrongo from April 23 to the 27.

“The EPAs negotiation is built on the principle of reciprocity and envisages abolition of all tariffs for at least 90% of all imports in ECOWAS from the EU. This constitutes a severe threat to small and medium scale farmers and producers in the sub-region. The immediate effect would be the further decline in incomes of about 50-60% of people employed in these sectors, thus retarding the poverty reduction efforts of the sub-region,” says, Sylvester Bagooro.

Mr. Bagooro, a Programme Officer at the Trade Unit of the Centre for Budget Advocacy (CBA) of ISODEC aalso sked ECOWAS not to accept the extension of the Common External Tariffs (CET) of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

According to the campaigners, they are not happy with the ECOWAS Heads of States for their “no objection nod” to the extension of CET. It is their view that CET, just as the EPAs, “is likely to further undermine agricultural sectors, which already, have suffered from western subsidies and dumping of imported agricultural produce.

“The proposed CET of 10% is too low and provides too little space for policy flexibility to protect sensitive sectors,” the group points out.

They are therefore calling on the governments of Ghana and Burkina Faso to lead the road in calling for the stoppage of negotiations on the EPAs in their current form.

But it is not only the EPAs which are a source of worry to the group. They are also not happy about physical barriers, such as the numerous police, CEPS and immigration barriers that tend to obstruct the free flow of persons, goods and services and business between Burkina and Ghana and to a large extend, the ECOWAS sub region.

According to a recent survey by ISODEC, the Motor Traffic and Transport Union of the Ghana Police Service have about eleven checkpoints between Kumasi and Paga. A similar situation exists between Paga, the northern end of Ghana, and other trading towns in Burkina Faso, a situation which does not augur well for creating mutual trust between the economies and people of the two countries.

The group however lauded Ghana and Burkina Faso peers for adopting the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP). It is the group’s view that by adopting ECOWAP, ECOWAS states had recognized the fact that agriculture plays a leading role in their economies, employing about 60% of the populations.

It would be recalled that tthirty civil society groups across Africa and Europe including the Third World Network-Africa, Ghana, Oxfam International, ChristianAid, the Tax Justice Network of South Africa, the Alternative Information Development Centre, South Africa etc. met in Harare, Zimbabwe, in March also called for an end to the EPAs negotiations, arguing that in their current form, the EPAs are a free trade agreement between unequal partners.

They also argued that the EPAs will in no doubt lead to deeper unemployment, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity and social and gender inequity and inequality as well as undermine human and social rights in ACP countries.

What is lacking is how the presidents and policy makers in the sub region and in the third world as a whole will respond to the clarion call by civil society groups for fair dealing with the west.

In a related development, Oxfam has warned poor countries not to accede to the Hong Kong Ministerial trade deal, describing it as holding too little for poverty reduction efforts.

In a report, Oxfam warns that poor countries would be better off continuing to negotiate rather than signing a deal this year. The report quotes Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International, as saying, “Rich countries are making huge inadequate offers and at the same time demanding concessions from poor countries that could be devastating. The hopes of a new development-friendly trade deal are dwindling and damage limitation is the order of the day.”

 Fuente: Public Agenda