Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have condemned the European Union for abusing the December deadline to put unjustifiable pressure on African governments to concede to its terms in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
They also cautioned the African governments not to buy into the EU’s false claims. The CSOs from several African countries meeting in Accra, Ghana today re-stated that Africa has everything to lose and nothing to gain by signing EPAs with the European Union.
Contrary to European Union claims, African countries do not need to sign EPAs to maintain their current market access levels to the European market.
We proposed that African countries can adopt the General System of Preference plus (GSP+) which will enable them to have access to EU market at levels similar to what they enjoy today, and this can even be improved. “The EU claim that only the EPAs can guarantee this continued access is totally false”, said Tetteh Hormeku of Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Af).
Signing onto the EPAs will trigger severe loss of jobs, threaten the peace of the continent, strangle Africa’s right to evolve and pursue its own development agenda and lead to recolonisation of Africa by Europe.
The EPAs, if signed, will lead to the elimination of tariffs but any tariff reduction and elimination will necessarily involve huge fiscal costs and many costs of implementation to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
EU’s promise of two billion euros under the European Development Fund (EDF) to help with the cost of adjustment under EPAs is false, misplaced and at best self-serving.
In the first place, the so-called additional two billion euros for adjustment is non-existent. The additional funding is in fact only 700 million euros and this is meant to be shared between the 71-member ACP group of countries and other developing countries in Latin America.
Not only is the EU money not sufficient to cover ACP losses arising from EPAs. EU’s promised aid “has nothing to do with development. It is more about buying acceptance of agreements by giving money”, said Marc Maes (of 11.11.11, Belgium), adding “EU aid will not right EPA wrongs”.
The EU is also manipulating the expiration of the Cotonou waiver on December 31, 2007 to send panic waves to African leaders that African exporters will lose access to the European market after this deadline.
But this is not true. The European Union is bound by obligation under the Cotonou Agreement (which has the force of international treaty) with the ACP to maintain market access for countries that decide not to sign the EPAs.
“The EU has deceived our governments, private sector and the horticultural sector that they will lose their markets after December 2007 and about alternative to EPAs” said Jane Nalunga`of SEATINI, Uganda.
The EU is hiding its own offensive interests in market access, services, investment, and intellectual property rights. The EU contends that it has no offensive interests in market access negotiations in West Africa for instance. However the EU has raised concerns in its member countries about ‘buy national’ products campaigns in ECOWAS countries, said Ofei Nkansah of the Ghana Agricultural Workers Union.
Again, the EU’s claim that EPAs will support regional integration is false as ACP producers will lose regional markets to cheap and subsidized European products.
In spite of the obviously severe handicaps of the EPAs and the damage they will inflict on African economies and peoples, our leaders continue to negotiate for the EPAs.
“This is too high a price to pay” said Thomas Deve of MWENGO, Zimbabwe.
The Cotonou Agreement provides for countries not to sign onto EPAs, African CSOs therefore call on our governments and negotiators to call the bluff of the European Union and reject the EPAs.