Heads of African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries attending the 6th ACP Summit in Accra, were on Wednesday called upon to renounce all interim and comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and resolve to negotiate fresh EPAs on 'reciprocal goods only' with the EU.
The call came from a coalition of three labour organizations, comprised of the African Regional Organization of International Trade Union Confederation (AROITUC), the Ghana Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL).
It came at a time when some ACP countries, including Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire had broken ranks with their sub-regional partners and signed separate interim EPAs with the European Union, which contravened the original intention for EPAs to be signed between the EU on one side and regional bodies within the ACP on the other.
Under the interim EPAs, 80 per cent of exports from EU into the developing countries will be on duty-free, tariff-free basis in exchange for 100 per cent market access for developing countries exports to the EU.
But Mr. Kwesi Adu-Amankwah, Secretary-General of AROITUC told journalists that the EPAs, as they were now, threatened to completely destroy the production base of the ACP countries and also make it impossible for those countries to realize the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
He explained that the 100 per cent market access for developing countries export in the EU was meaningless because those products faced stiff competition from similar heavily subsidized EU-made products.
Meanwhile the ACP had supply constraints and could therefore not take full advantage of that offer in the same magnitude the EU companies took advantage of the 80 per cent access to ACP markets.
“We therefore call on our heads of states to reclaim the destiny and sovereignty of our countries by taking a collective decision on the EPAs.
“This decision must be two fold – renounce all interim and comprehensive EPAs and resolve to negotiate and agree a non-reciprocal goods only EPAs with the EU,” he said.
Mr. Adu-Amankwah noted that the removal of customs duties on as much as 80 per cent of imports from the EU would deny ACP countries of the most reliable sources of revenue as most ACP countries depended on customs tariffs for half of their locally generated revenues.
Mr. Adu-Amankwah urged heads of ACP countries to learn a lesson from the on-going world financial crisis due to the uncontrolled and liberal market activities in the United States America and protect their markets from the extreme liberalizations that the EPAs proposed.
He noted that for the past six years since EPA negotiations begun, no impact access had been done to access how their implement would affect the economies of ACP countries and yet the EU insisted that the EPA be signed notwithstanding.
Mr. Adu-Amankwah deplored the attitude the European Commission (EC) throughout the EPA negotiations, saying the EC's willingness to abandon the regional negotiations framework and signed separate interim EPAs with individual countries, was a clear sign that the EC was not interested in the regional integration of ACP states.
“In an addition the attempt by the EC to cast all critical voices represented by civil society particularly on the EPAs as disgruntled, underscored the desperation on the EC and clearly undermines the spirit of the Coutonou Partnership Agreement that calls for the involvement of non-state actors,” he said.
He noted that the posture of the EU throughout the EPA negotiations suggested that they knew what was good from ACP countries and that the governments and civil society in ACP countries knew nothing, adding that the EPA also sought to render ACP government ineffective by taking away their regulatory powers.
Mr. Adu-Amankwah said the on-going ACP summit provided an opportunity for members stated to take a firm and united decision on the EPAs with the view to saving their economies from the inimical invasion by the European multi-nationals.