The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, South Africa Rob Davies has called on African leaders to ignore the Economic Partnership Agreement proposed by the European Commission since the continent is presently not ready for it.
Instead, he called on political leaders to liase with trade experts within their sub regional organisations to draft proposals in the interest of Africa for European Commission's consideration to balance trade.
He noted that the EPA proposal which is being forced on Africa Caribbean and Pacific Countries, the least developed countries, has lots of impediments and risks in it.
According to him, even though the EPA seeks to promote regional integration and balance in trade, it is a preference arrangement for Europe for the fact that Europe will use its integrated policy to trade with the least developed countries that have different regulatory and monitoring measures as well as trade laws.
Speaking at a press conference organised by the Third World Network, a branch of Africa Trade Network, a civil society organisation in the ongoing UNTAD 12 biennial Summit, Dr. Davis said the EPA processes are complicated and could not enhance regional trade, hence the refusal of South Africa to refuse the signing of the interim EPA.
"As African countries, we need to strengthen our capacities to draft common investment and trade policies to enhance competition with Europe", he noted.
The Minister of Trade and Industry of Senegal, Mamadou Diop, for his part, criticized Ghana and Cote d"Ivoire for signing the EPA interim when the other sub regional countries had advocated against it.
He noted that Africa will lose about US $359 million a year if it should sign the interim EPA agreement.
The Economic Partnership Agreement, optimists say was initiated to reduce poverty by supporting the sustainable development and gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy. However, civil society organisations say current direction of the EPA negotiations looks set to undermine the objective rather than facilitating it.
Gyekye Tono of the Third World Network called on all civil society organisations and African leaders to redouble their efforts to stop the self-serving free trade agreements that Europe seeks to impose on African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries.
He stated that, signing the EPA light does not bind Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire to continue with the implementation process, since they could opt out at anytime, "We must join hands and say no to economic suppression", he added.