EU-ACP EPAs: the NGO perspective

European Commission, March 15, 2010

‘As Non-Governmental Organizations we have to make sure that trade policies benefit both the business sector and the citizens. Our contribution in the trade negotiations between our government and the European Union (EU) is not to deny profit-oriented thinking. We support it, but we must instill safeguards in order to prevent the economy from squeezing out and abusing its people. We demand total honesty and transparency in the process and we must carefully monitor those involved. Most of all, there is no room for greed. Our trade relations have to serve us all.

The current trade negotiations pave the way for the dream of African industrialisation to become a reality. With the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), we can secure trade policies that are fair for business and good to our people. Fair and equal trade policies are those that ensure that our people are protected against exploitation and abuse.

Good trade policies support development. This starts with increasing our competitiveness, especially in the agricultural sector, which is the backbone of most African economies. It also implies respecting and taking into consideration the different levels of development in different countries. Some need technical assistance by the EU, while others depend on further preferential market access or specialized protection for weak industries. The EPA can administer this and also help shield weak sectors that could be exposed while competing in the global market. For many so-called “sensitive” products in the agricultural sector, this has been achieved.

The opportunities within the EPA go beyond this. We see the agreement as a developmental tool, not mere tools for trade. The EPA has a broad scope and acknowledges the fact that trade and human rights are closely linked. If there is unfair competition and the local economy is weakened, it will have a negative impact on individual human lives. People will lose their jobs and livelihoods, leading to increased child labor, exploitation, criminality or even political uprisings. Imbalanced trade relations destabilize societies.

The new trading schemes help bring us closer together. Exchange between our continents can light a spark – not only in our businesses and economies but our societies as well. The more we know about each other, the more we feel responsible for one another.’

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