The Monitor, Kampala
Govt Warned On EPAs
By Ismail-Musa Ladu, Kampala
21 November 2007
A group of civil society representatives in Uganda have warned the government against signing an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union arguing that it will stifle the growth of local industries and frustrate the effort of local farmers.
Addressing journalists in Kampala on Monday, Mr Elly Twineyo, the executive director of African Centre for Trade and Development said: "The government will have made a mistake to sign an agreement that will crumble our industries and agricultural production."
He added that: "We believe in trade with development but not trade with stringent conditions that we can not be able to compete favourably."
Mr Twineyo stated that the East African Community is due to sign EPAs, a move that he said was "a betrayal of other African countries that have not signed this pact because of its unfair terms."
He argued that the EU is aware of its economic muscle and that that is the reason why the agreement by whatever case suits their interests. "We are negotiating with a rich man who does not want to be committed to other real issues of trade," he said.
Ambassador Nathan Isumba, the chief executive director of Seatini, said the EU is not operating within the trade rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which upheld fair trade among countries.
"Having trade with EU means that we must substantially liberalized our market and this comes with investment and competition that will constraint our development," he said.
He argued that the government has not taken care of the full implications that would result from signing of the EPA. "we as civil society believe that our government does not see the wider picture and we therefore reject EPA signing," he said.
Mr Shaban Sserunkuma, who represented the consumers, said "the EU is giving us access to their market but the entry into that market is not easy as the agreement presents."
"When Comesa opened up free trade with EU, they ended up losing half a million dollars and the EU gain one million dollars instead." Mr Sserunkuma said:
Ms Monica Naggaga, the programme coordinator of Oxfam, said that the EU deadline to sign the EPA is putting undue pressure to the government of Uganda to concede to the EU proposals on the EPA.
She said the EPA is "a threat to the local producers and industries."