Malawian farmers union wary of EU trade deal
14 August 2006
Farmers in Malawi have warned government to tread carefully before endorsing the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement, saying signing the deal will put the country’s agricultural products at the risk of not finding the international market.
By Tadala Makata Kakwesa
Farmers Union of Malawi (Fum) said in a statement the new EU trade deal through EPAs will undermine development and lead to increased poverty in the country.
“The Union is urging the government and its partners in the Southern and Eastern African region to seriously reconsider the implications of these new trade deals before signing the deal with the European Union,” reads the statement.
Currently, African countries enjoy preferential market access to the EU under the previous agreements which are expiring in 2007.
The new trade agreements are designed to replace the preference system with Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that will open up the African markets to EU products. In the statement, Fum says the EU is using the FTA as a tool to force free trade on Africa when it is not ready to make gains through an expanded market for finished and agricultural products through liberalisation.
But Trade and Private Sector Development Minister Ken Lipenga said in an interview the said negotiations are still underway at technical level and that they have not yet reached the ministerial level where, he said, consultations will start.
“I think their fears are unfounded since negotiations are still underway and the President will also have to approve before the ultimate agreement is made,” he said. According to Lipenga, negotiations on the agreement are expected to be finalised by the end of 2007.
Fum’s membership comprises the Tobacco Association of Malawi (Tama), the Poultry Association of Malawi, Smallholder Cane Growers Association, Smallholder Tea Association and Chikwawa Cotton and Rice Associations.