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05.09.2004 General News

Oxfam says EPA negotiations will not promote development

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Accra, Sept. 5, GNA - Oxfam, a development-oriented NGO said on Saturday that it was opposed to the current form of negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union and ECOWAS countries because it would not promote sustainable development and poverty reduction.

"While we believe that closer economic relationship between the EU and the developing countries could lead to sustainable development and poverty reduction, the blueprint presented by the EU will do nothing to further these goals," Mr Sam Salifu Danse, Country Programme Manager, Oxfam told Journalists in Accra.

Mr Danse said the EU blueprint, instead of presenting a strong development component to level the playing field for countries in the sub-region; the EU had failed to offer any increase in current overall levels of financial assistance.

In addition, the EU was requiring member countries of ECOWAS to open up to EU goods and investors at a time ECOWAS countries were not in position to compete effectively, a move that could be devastating to the economies and livelihood of its people.

Mr Danse said besides these negative issues, the EPA negotiations would weaken the regional integration process, which is important for the long-term development of the sub-region.

"Without increased economies of scale and regional economic integration, there is little possibility of fair and equitable economic exchanges with the EU," he said.

" There is no evidence that the simultaneous effort to open small and weak economies to big ones, while promoting regional integration is possible," he added.

Mr Danse said Oxfam would like to see a much stronger and differential treatment, which would involve a much lesser degree of reciprocity than what the EU is currently demanding, especially in the area of protection of sensitive industries and agricultural sectors from unfair competition from EU products.

There must also be the inclusion of a substantial development component with expanded financial assistance and compensatory programmes and mechanisms to address adjustment costs as well as a respect for African led integration process as a prerequisite for pro-poor and equitable economic partnership.

"Regional markets should be consolidated before ECOWAS market is subject to further opening up to the EU," Danse said. On Education, Oxfam urged donors to close the multi-billion dollar shortfall in education financing to enable more children to attend school in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

There must also be deeper and broader debt relief to enable poor countries to reach the MDGs.

"Donors in the West and the EU have a moral responsibility to live up to their promises on trade, agriculture and education, if they are truly committed to the ideals of MDGs.

Two British opposition Members of Parliament, John Bercow and Tom Brake, who interacted with poor rice, cotton and tomatoes farmers in the North as well as visited small-scale Cocoa farmers in Ashanti, promised to bring Ghana's concerns about the unfair trade and agriculture regimes to the attention of the British government.