Southern Africa must reject EU trade deals

Publié le par hort

There is enough information available today to help Africans negotiate agreements which are in their interests. I have written an extensive article on this economic game that the West has been running since slavery which I encourage all African people to read. Hort

Advocates: Southern Africa must reject EU trade deals
By Stanley Kwenda
Updated Sep 2, 2008

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, (IPS/GIN) - Southern African nongovernmental organizations recently demonstrated against the proposed economic partnership agreements with the European Union, urging their governments not to sign such trade deals.

Organizations from the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network took part in a street protest against the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) in Sandton on Aug. 16. Sandton is the commercial heart of South Africa where the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state summit took place Aug. 16-17.

Activists carried banners saying “Stop EPAs now;” “An injury to one market is an injury to all;” “No to bilateral EPAs;” and “SADC not for sale.”

The network used the occasion of the Southern African Development Community summit to raise their voices against the ongoing trade talks by arranging a three-day People’s Solidarity Summit to run parallel with the Southern African Development Community summit. This is the fourth summit hosted by the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network since 2000. The regional network of nongovernmental organizations strategizes around resistance to the20negative effects of globalization on the global South.

The summit was attended by about 500 delegates from the Southern African Development Community region. The theme was centered on reclaiming and building a democratic Southern African Development Community for peoples’ development through people’s rights, unity and cooperation.

“We demand that there not be any such externally imposed trade liberalization between SADC and the European Union,” said Thomas Deve, a policy analyst with the Africa office of the United Nations Millennium Campaign. The campaign is aimed at inspiring people to realize the millennium development goals that countries committed themselves to.

The solidarity network is opposed to “new generation issues” being included in the talks. These issues include services, government procurement and national treatment of companies. The network is also objecting to the principle of reciprocity in trade preferences being adopted, given the “totally different sizes” of the economies of Southern African Development Community and the European Union.

A communiqué prepared at the end of the network’s summit laid down a number of issues that organizations would want regional governments to look at before continuing with the trade negotiations.

The organizations said all the Southern African Development Community countries must reunite and face the EU together in order to promote and protect the interest of the region. The civic groups said the trade negotiations have led to the disintegration of Southern African Development Community. “We deplore the splitting up of SADC into two groups negotiating (economic partnership agreements) with the EU. This is not only weakening them now but it is also placing at risk the future development co-operation and integration of the whole of SADC,” Mr. Deve said.

“We must stop the neoliberal policies aimed at recolonizing Africa,” said Dot Keet, a trade specialist with the Alternative Information Development Center in Cape Town, South Africa. “We must not allow EU development cooperation aid to lure our countries into irreversible commitments that can place the entire future of SADC in jeopardy.”

Ms. Keet said the economic partnership agreements hold far-reaching consequences for small farmers in the Southern African Development Community who face a barrage of problems such as perennial floods, a lack of inputs and a lack of financial support. Given this situation, the farmers can hardly compete with subsidized agricultural imports from EU.

Small traders running cross-border operations are being ousted by large retail chains and others from developed countries. This, Ms. Keet said, is resulting in massive losses of jobs as existing factories and industries are closing down.

The EU is not negotiating in good faith, accusing it of dangling aid as a carrot to blackmail African governments, Ms. Keet added. She demanded that the signing of the economic partnership agreements be stopped until African countries are allowed to negotiate without any threats of aid cuts if they chose not to sign.

The Southern African Development Community has been torn apart by economic partnership agreements “because of the arm-twisting tactics of the EU, which has left countries receiving aid from Europe vulnerable,” she said.

The solidarity network resolved to encourage members of parliament in the Southern African Development Community region to interrogate the executive arms of their governments and to ask questions about trade liberalization.

The economic partnership agreements are a plan to create a free trade area between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. The EU has framed the trade deals as necessary in the light of criticism that its nonreciprocal preferential trade agreements with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states are incompatible with World Trade Organization rules.

Initially economic partnership agreements were supposed to be region-to-region agreements between the EU and six regional groupings of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. However, the Southern African Development Community has been split during the trade negotiations. Some of the bloc’s governments negotiated outside the Southern African Development Community framework and are preparing to introduce rapid and radical bilateral tariff reductions.

South Africa has refused to sign an economic partnership agreement, while Namibia has raised various objections before signing an interim agreement. Other Southern African Development Community countries—Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland—have entered into interim economic partnership agreements with the EU. Mozambique, Mauritius, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe have also entered into interim agreements with the EU.

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