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ACCRA, Ghana—(TWN-Af)-5 April, 2006— Thirty civil society organisations met in Harare from 27-30 March 2006 to launch a global call for action to Stop the so-called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Organised under the umbrella of the Africa Trade Network (ATN), the objective of the meeting was to outline existing problems within the EPAs, and call upon both the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU) to pay far greater attention to how it will affect citizens.

Those civil society organisations (CSOs) within both the ACP and EU have been increasingly explicit in the manner in which this free-trade agreement will hinder the economies of the ACP. In the Global Call, the CSOs accuse the EU of having constructed “new rhetoric to sell the EPAs and justify continuation of its mandate”. Aspersion is also cast on the ACP governments who are accused of not having “translated into policy and negotiating positions” the very same collective public positions on the EPA they repudiated.

That there is deadlock in the WTO negotiations has triggered a rush for market-promiscuity tactics predicated on bilateral and regional free trade agreements. This has compounded the need for the already-existing global mobilisation that the campaign has generated to shore up their efforts to bring an indefinite halt to the EPA negotiations.

To this end, the STOP EPA campaign has outlined three points, arguing how the EPAs will “expand Europe’s access to ACP markets for its goods and services”; how it will lead to “loss of livelihoods” and inequity and inequality; as well as “endanger the ongoing but fragile processes of regional integration” ongoing among the ACP countries.

Furthermore, the campaign is demanding an “overhaul and review of the EU’s neo-liberal external trade policy, particularly with respect to developing countries” , demanding that the EU-ACP trade cooperation should be predicated on four points, that include an approach “based on a principle of non-reciprocity”; one that “protects ACP producers domestic and regional markets’; “reverses the pressure” for trade liberalisation; as well as allowing the “necessary policy space” for ACP countries to pursue their own development strategies.

Seeing that ACP countries are those that should hold “primary responsibility for promoting the interests and needs of the people in ACP countries”, the CSOs are also calling on them to do three things: “heed to the call of their citizens over the EPAs”; “live up to their policy statements on EPAs”; and “reassert their policy authority on the negotiations over the regional secretariats.”

As for the EU, the campaign is tasking them to live up to their “stated developmental objectives”, demanding that member-governments of the EU needing to “assert their authority over the E[uropean] C[ommission] on issues concerning ACP-EU co-operation”; “change the EC’s negotiating mandate in relation to the EPA negotiations’; and finally “ensure that the EPA review mandated for this year is comprehensive, all-inclusive, transparent, and substantive…”.

In December 2004, Third World Network-Africa launched the Stop-EPA campaign at the ASF in Lusaka, Zambia. In the organisation’s attempt to underscore the continuing relevance, please visit the Stop-EPA subsite, where you can read critical reports from the campaign, learn more about the EPAs through the guide; as well as read the special edition of TWN-Af’s flagship publication “African Agenda”:

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The negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements are mandated under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000 between EU and the 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. The Cotonou Agreement replaced the Lome Conventions which had granted ACP countries non-reciprocal, preferential access to EU markets in a series of agreements dating back to 1975. The EPAs are in essence reciprocal free trade agreements that EU will negotiate on a bilateral basis with ACP regions. The issue of reciprocity is a major change from the preferential system that characterized the previous Lome Conventions. The first phase of the negotiations with EU began in September 2002 and was conducted at the overall ACP level.

The haste with which EU has been pushing for the second phase, i.e. the regional negotiations on the EPAs, is extremely worrying. Major divergences from the first phase of the negotiations still persist. The ACP countries had wanted a legally binding framework agreement with EU on the overall ACP level on the scope and structure of EPAs, which would guide the regional negotiations. But the EU rejected this. The ACP countries wanted to avoid a situation where the EU seeks agreements with the ‘weakest’ regional groupings first and then use these as the ‘template’ for similar agreements with the other regional blocs. The ACP countries are now left to EU’s divide-and-rule negotiating tactics in the different regional negotiations. …….


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