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EU is delaying EPA negotiation process - TWN

Ghana News Agency, Accra

EU is delaying EPA negotiation process - TWN

20 August 2008

Accra, GNA - Mr. Gyekye Tanoh, an official of the Third World Network (TWN), a civil society organization, on Wednesday blamed delays in the Economic Partnership Agreements process on the European Union (EU) saying they were manipulating the negotiation process to suit them.

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is a kind of trade agreement between Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) countries on one hand and Europe on the other.

Mr Tanoh made these remarks at a press conference organized by TWN to announce the 11th African Trade Network (ATN) meeting to be held in Ghana on August 25-28.

The EPA is promoting reciprocal trade between the ACP countries and Europe so that these countries could trade among themselves without tariffs or taxes in areas including, the agricultural sector as well as the provision of services.

He said there was no doubt that Europe was manipulating the process since they were the same people who hired consultants on behalf of Africa and paid them.

He asked: "How fair would it be if consultants who are supposed to negotiate these agreements on our behalf are paid by the EU, our negotiating partners?"

The content of the Agreement includes the proposal that the ACP countries liberalize almost 90 per cent of all their productive capacity, substantially covering all forms of trade in which there are no duties on goods imported and exported between the two groups.

The EPA was to have been signed by December 31, 2007. However, negotiating parties could not come to an agreement and Ghana signed what the "Interim EPA" to enable them to continue with the old system of trading agreement with Europe.

Mr. Tanoh said ATN, which is a coalition of non-governmental organizations, women organizations, trade unions, strategic campaign networks, activists, individuals engaged in trade-related issues and the academia would review strategies in the "Stop EPAs" campaigns and noted that there were new challenges emerging against the campaign.

"The EPAs are fundamentally an extension of the same neo-liberal policies Africa and other developing regions have been coerced to adopt in the last three decades," he said.

He added that such policies had led to the destruction of Africa’s productive sectors including agriculture and worsened economic inequalities between poor countries and the rich nations.

Mr. Tanoh said the EPAs were likely to intensify the continent’s dangerous reliance on aid from the developed countries even though there were new opportunities for Africa to trade with emerging economies like China, India and Brazil.

He said the ATN meeting would analyse emerging issues and linkages arising from global economic trends.

About 55 participants from countries including Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Cameroon, DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Burundi as well as observers from Europe are expected to be part of the meeting.