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European Union censured over EPA negotiations

The Standard (Nairobi)

22 January 2005

European Union censured over EPA negotiations

By Ochieng’ Ogodo

Trade agreements between the European Union and Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries could undermine the integration project in East Africa, a civil society lobby group has said.

According to the group, ACP agreements on critical issues such as trade in agriculture, industrial goods and services could open the East African market to subsidised European goods and services thereby minimise the benefits to EAC member states.

Speaking at a two day meeting that was held in Nairobi, the groups expressed concern over the direction that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) was taking.

"While Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are trying to implement the recently signed Customs Union Protocol, the European Union is undermining the process through negotiations that are aimed at splitting the three countries into two different negotiating blocs," Ms Jane Nalunga from Seatini, Uganda, said.

Mr Ashok Subron from Mauritius’ Resistance and Alternatives Initiative said the agreements could lead to massive loss of revenue by African governments as well as wipe out the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers who will have to compete against subsidised European imports.

"These agreements are being negotiated between the world’s richest and the poorest states making it very hard to exercise fairness," he said.

Mr Peter Aoga of EcoNews Africa, Kenya, told the conference that the agreements were likely to lead to trade diversion and unfair competition from European goods, at a time when Eastern and Southern African countries should be concentrating on developing regional markets.

The forum noted that while European ministers were travelling all over Africa to promote new initiatives such as Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, they were on the sidelines supporting the highly lopsided EPA negotiations.

Mr Richard Kamidza from Seatini, Zimbabwe, said the EU had set an unrealistic timeframe for the EPAs and was using the divide and rule tactic to push through its trade and investment agenda.

Through EPAs, he said, the EU had gone beyond the World Trade Organisation (WTO) framework.

 source: The Standard