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EU tries to establish Mediterranean free trade zone, meets fierce opposition

Associated Content | 24 October 2007

EU Tries to Establish Mediterranean Free Trade Zone, Meets Fierce Opposition

By Codie Leonsch Hartwig

Friends of the Earth MedNet has lodged a fierce protest against European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson for his part in attempting to establish a free trade zone encompassing the countries around the Mediterranean, including non-EU member countries.

The European Commission (EC) funded an independent research study that was conducted by the University of Manchester in Manchester, England, and the study’s findings were decidedly negative toward the establishment of a trade free area around the Mediterranean. The overall thrust of the study is that free trade in the Mediterranean will make the poor of the Mediterranean countries even poorer.

Some of the specifics of Manchester’s findings are that the condition of women and the involvement of women in their country’s development will loose ground. The study predicts women will lose importance within their communities and the effects of the results of free trade will be manifest in women’s health and living standards.

As trade becomes redirected and redistributed among many EU countries, poor nationals will lose trade markets and this will result in loss of revenue for the governments. Any loss in revenue shows itself in a retrenching of the establishment of national infrastructure and expenditures for public welfare in health and education.

With commerce and trade going elsewhere under a Mediterranean-area free trade agreement, a drop in employment and a corresponding fall in wages is predicted. This will be keenly felt in nationals’ ability to provide themselves with basic necessities and to safeguard their health. The poorest will be the most vulnerable to fluctuations in world trade market prices for basic food stuffs.

Peter Mandelson has been active in promoting and negotiating the implementation of a EuroMed free trade area that is projected to include Egypt, Morocco and Israel, among others. The two Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Friends of the Earth MedNet and the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment Culture and Sustainable Development are insisting that the free trade plans be aborted and that energies be refocused on the recommendations of Manchester’s EC funded report.

The EC study emphasizes a Euro-Mediterranean partnership that does not have trade as its pivotal focus but rather focuses on the particulars expressed in the UN Millennium Development Goals. The goals of the partnership must be to establish social, environmental and economic objectives for Mediterranean nations and assist them in attaining the Millennium developmental targets for health, education, the advancement of women, the protection of children, stewardship of the environment, and unrestricted availability of the inalienable right of pure food and water.

These demands made by the NGOs were presented in a letter to the EU presidency, the EuroMed trade ministers and the EU commissioners.

"Med free trade talks progress, disregarding Commission’s own impact study," Friends of the Earth MedNet.

 source: AC