WASHINGTON - September 27 - On the anniversary of the beginning of negotiations between the EU and more than 70 Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) - ActionAid International and Friends of the Earth urged the European Union to halt its anti-development trade agenda and stop current negotiations which have entered a critical phase.
On International Stop EPAs Day the environment and development organisations accused the EU of pushing for damaging bi-lateral deals with some of the world’s poorest countries, reviving some of the trade terms already rejected at the World Trade Organisation .
Although the European Commission claims to be pushing a development agenda in trade talks, the agencies warned that the main beneficiaries of the Economic Partnership Agreements currently being negotiated will be European corporations.
An investment deal will deregulate and open up sensitive sectors in developing countries to foreign corporations. The rights of developing countries to regulate foreign investors would be stripped away.
The European Commission’s recent Sustainability Impact Assessments of the EPAs on financial services sector in Central Africa stated that there has been a failure to demonstrate that liberalisation would improve proximity and lower costs of banking and insurance services for local people.
Mariano Iossa ActionAid International's Trade Policy Advisor said:
"Europe is demanding a fast-paced liberalisation process ahead of a well-sequenced adjustments process. In addition, the EU’s aid pledges for such adjustment so far are just repackaged existing funds. Without a new pro-poor mandate, communities in the South will be far better off rejecting these deals. Some EU member states, including the UK, have been critical but failed to change the negotiating mandate of the Commission."
Opposition to these deals from ACP countries is increasing. Ambassador Joseph Ma’ahanua of the Solomon Islands reported to the trade committee of the Joint EU ACP Parliamentary Assembly two weeks ago that: “There are a few areas of convergences but more on divergences.”
Friends of the Earth Trade Campaigner Joe Zacune said:
"These trade deals are grossly unfair, forcing developing countries to throw open their markets. This will expose poor farmers to heavily subsidised European agricultural products and pit African infant industry against powerful European companies. The results will exacerbate poverty and cause lasting damage to their environment. Regulations designed to protect the environment in sensitive sectors such as oil, gas and mining will be undermined.”
NOTE TO EDITORS:
The STOP EPA campaign is run by a coalition of more than 170 European, African, Caribbean and Pacific organisations campaigning against the anti-development nature of EPAs.
Friends of the Earth and ActionAid are members of the Trade Justice Movement that is calling on the EU to stop the current negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements and provide alternatives that work for poor people.
 These so-called Singapore issues were rejected by developing countries at the WTO Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico in 2003