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02.05.2007 General News

Oxfam & TWN insists on rejection of EPA

By Samuel COLEMAN

The Third World Network, Africa (TWN) has reiterated its call for the rejection of the new free trade deal known as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) being proposed by the European Commission.

The EU has threatened some of the world's poorest countries with lower access to the European Market if they fail to sign the new trade deal by the end of 2007.

But according to TWN, the European Union has been cranking up the pressure and presenting poor countries with a stark choice: either sign up to free trade deals which may be devastating for the economy and for the vast majority of people, or accept less advantageous market access terms overnight, which will lead to massive economic losses and economic instability.

TWN says the threats being issued by the EU are not justified because in the event that African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are not ready to sign the new trade deal by the end of the year, the EU and its member Nations could still continue to provide them (ACP) with a high level of market access, using the GSP-plus scheme without breaching World Trade Organisation rules adding that the level market access would be compatible with their developmental needs.

Tetteh Hormeku of TWN who spoke to the dailyEXPRESS after the launch of a report by Oxfam International and Third World Network Africa which seeks to highlight how the European Union can maintain market access for the ACP region in the absence of EPAs, said the cost of signing the new trade agreements far outweigh the benefits.

The joint Oxfam-TWN report focuses on countries in the East and Southern Africa negotiating bloc and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific bloc and demonstrates that for these countries GSP-plus would offer a better level of market access very similar to what is currently enjoyed under the Coutonou trade agreement.

According to Mr. Hormeku there will be too many costs which will include: domestic investments, revenue, loss of domestic industries, farmers and their produce, loss of governments ability to direct investments in important sectors of the economy and the loss of governments sovereignty to be able to determine the correct policy and how they would want it.

Under the new EPA, it suggests a free access to the European Market by ACP and other poorer countries, but this Mr. Hormeku says will lead to the collapse of the African market. We will have access to EU's market which means our goods can go into their market duty free and quota free which is very wonderful but the problem is when someone gives you access into their market you must be able to produce their goods which our market here cannot do.

He added that this free access of the EU market will not be free and that they are demanding in exchange 80% of our market for their goods.

Explaining the danger in granting 80% of our market to EU countries, Mr. Hormeku said that European countries face better conditions adding that their goods are highly subsidized, interest rates are not more than 2% and do not have energy shortfalls or crisis as we are currently facing in Ghana and other West African countries.

This means their free entry into the market will bring about unfavorable competition to our local market and in the end out-compete our producers.

Mr. Hormeku and the Third World Network Africa are hoping that the ministry of trade and industry would show serious commitment in the negotiations with other African countries to resist the new trade agreements and hoped that they will be successful in their dealings.

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