EPAs negotiations: Civil society calls for caution
By Umoru Henry
2 October 2006
ABUJA-Civil society organisations have called for caution as Nigeria, the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) and other African, Caribbean and Pacific(ACP) countries begin the second phase of negotiations with the European Union on the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement(EPAs).
September 27 marked the beginning of Phase 2 negotiations and it focuses on issues that are specific to ACP countries and regions, even as the development agency says that EPAs threaten to expose farmers of developing countries to direct and unfair competition with highly subsidized EU producers.
It may be recalled that Oxfam, a UK-based NGO had in a 15-page report stressed that the proposed Economic Partnership Agreements would hurt rather than help the ACP countries, 39 of which are Least Developed Countries.
According to a statement signed by the chairman of Nigeria Trade Network(NTN), Hajiya Hauwa Mustapha in Abuja, which noted with dismay that there the first phase had not come out with tangible outcome of negotiations, warned that opening markets would also threaten much-needed jobs in ACP countries as well as undermine regional integration processes.
Nigeria Trade Network is a coalition of private and civil society organisations working in the area of trade in Nigeria .
According to the coalition, ECOWAS must increase its capacity on trade negotiations to enable it effectively represent the interests of West Africa people and bring about the needed sustainable development in the region.
"We fear that there is an attempt to rush the conclusion of the negotiations even when the necessary capacities needed are out of place. Yet we understand the implication of requesting for another waiver from the WTO to extend the date of implementation."
However, we also believe that we owe ourselves the responsibility not to sell the future of tomorrows generations, for its is better to delay the negotiations than to sign a bad deal. We note that through EPAs, ACP governments stand to lose control over key policy instruments such as tariff policy, competition and investment rules that all developed countries have used to progress.
NTN further calls on Europe to use the formal review of the EPAs process over the next few months to redirect negotiations onto a different path. For instance, the European Commission ought to drop its ambitions of having reciprocal market access with ACP countries. Instead, Europe must focus on further opening its own market to ACP countries.
She observed that if the EPAs are to be pro-poor deals, they should not lead to losses in government revenue and employment generation, which are critical to poverty reduce reduction in Nigeria and other West African countries.
We therefore urge the Nigerian government to use its position and influence in international relations to ensure that our local and regional interests are guaranteed in the EPA negotiations, she said.