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Tread carefully on trade talk with the EU

The Citizen, Dar es Salaam

Tread Carefully On Trade Talk With the EU


6 November 2008

An interesting new report on the trade and investment deals currently being negotiated between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries reiterates the need to revisit the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

The report raises concern about the tactics being used by the European Commission (EC) to get the 76 ACP countries to sign up for new deals.

It also reveals what its authors, a UK-based environmental organisation, Friends of the Earth, see as the real motive behind the EC arm-twisting to get the ACP countries to accept EPAs.

The NGO argues that the EU’s approach appears to be driven by the agenda set out in its trade strategy, ’Global Europe - Competing in the World’.

This is aimed at securing and maintaining access to markets and primary raw materials as a key priority for trade negotiations with other countries.

Smelling a rat, many ACP countries refused to sign the agreements last December, fearing the potential adverse impact of the deals on their economies and development programmes.

The Caribbean and the East African Community (EAC) were the only regional groupings to have initialled collective agreements.

If the Europeans had genuine business and commercial motives, they would not have resorted to a divide-and-rule strategy to push for the deals. Neither would they have opted to negotiate with countries in increasingly small and isolated blocs.

It is the manipulation and threats that tend to confirm the suspicion that Europe is only interested in extracting greater trade concessions.

According to the NGO’s report, the EPAs will lock African countries into an economic model based on the export of raw materials. This will in the end expose their grossly disadvantaged economies to competitive European goods and capital.

This whole arrangement must be looked at afresh and all the stakeholders in the national economies of the partner states involved in crafting the EAC’s position.

On its part, the EU should come up with a new trade strategy that takes into account the needs of the poor countries and allows them to protect their economies from the worst excesses of the market.