Partnership for Change project has two thematic focus connected to the heart of development policies and the struggle against poverty. MDGs and EPAs, central themes of the project, were indeed both created as development policies: the first one, with the aim of committing governments in the South and in the North on punctual development objectives to be reached by 2015, the second one, proposing economic agreements of free trade as an access point to development for many ACP countries.
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AdP Ngo has organized, in Rome, a two days event to In-Form on economic crisis, climate change, labour and economy.
On the 26th, a seminar entitled Revolution: economic crisis, new models for development and future of the Earth gathered experts from national and international civil society organizations and trade unions who pointed out that labour and environment crises are both generated by measuring development trough profit, neglecting all other social indicators.
A workshop on international trade followed this first seminar.
On the 27th two sessions took place. During the first one, experts from Luiss and Tor Vergata Univerities discussed about economy and world trade, and deepened their contribution to international recovery. During the second session, journalists and activists debated on economic recovery and new opportunities reported by the media.
The round table in the afternoon was focused on Wiki-Lab : communicate on economy to change the world.
On the occasion of the EU-AU Summit scheduled in Tripoli for 29 and 30 November 2010, the Stop Epas Campaing has called on EU leaders to reset EU-ACP negotiations.
The Stop Epa Campaing has pointed out that it is time to radically change the parameters for EU-ACP negotiations given the fact that EPAs are stuck in a prolonged stalemate.
The EU should not continue to impose its view and take the utmost care not to undermine regional integration efforts in Africa. The EU must stop insisting on its EPA mandate and on comprehensive deep-integration agreements that neither the WTO nor the Cotonou Agreement require neither the majority of ACP countries see as appropriate and feasible.
Campaigners have asked the EU to consider alternative arrangements to secure the continuity of the access of the ACP countries to the European market. According to this, they have outlined several measures, such as adapting the GSP to make EBA accessible to all African countries. It would help to keep the African regions together and would give them the breathing space to work out their own regional policies.
“It’s time for the EU to find a solution at the political level and to seriously respond to the the AU’s recommendations”, campaigners said.
Kampala, Uganda - Three years since it was initialed, the future of the trade negotiations between the European Union (EU) and East African Community (EAC) remains in balance as the set deadline fast approaches.
Joseph Olanyo - www.allafrica.com
Referred to as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), the EPA, is the only World Trade Organisation (WTO) compatible trade agreement that can guarantee 100% duty free and quota free market access while very importantly ensuring uniformity of EAC external trade policy. However, the agreement today remains unsigned. This has put economic operators in an unpredictable and uncertain environment.
The Head of the Political and Trade Section of the EU Delegation in Uganda, Mr Harvey Rouse, said last week that It is important that negotiations of the final EPA are brought to a successful conclusion as expeditiously as possible. "The legal vacuum that prevails cannot be sustained in the long run," he said. Unfortunately EAC has not followed up on June 9 ministerial meeting in Dar es Salaam".
Harvey contends that the EU remains committed to delivering a pro-development WTO compatible EPA. "We believe that even now, if we work hard together, we can deliver such a result by November. But this requires commitment from both sides. The EU can not want the EPA more than EAC. We must work together to find a mutually satisfactory solution", he said in a statement sent to East African Business Week
But trade analysts are arguing that the EAC should be cautious in signing EPA until they are satisfied with its content. The Director Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International Geneva Resource Centre, Atul Kaushik, says fostering research discovered that while the situation varies among countries and different stakeholders, the research affirms that much still needs to be done before the actual signing. "Unless proper agreements are adhered to, it is better to delay signing an agreement than sign and get to understand the content. EAC states still have time to sign the EPAs," Kaushik said.
The EAC-EU Framework EPA was initialled in Kampala on 27 November 2007. The two are supposed to sign a comprehensive EPA mid November. Speaking during a national dialogue organized by the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations (SEATINI) in Kampala, Kaushik said most parties still believe EPAs are a promotion of the neo liberal policies of deregulation, liberalization and privatization.
While responding to issues of concern during the National Trade Sector Review conference organised by the Ministry of Tourism Trade and Industry (MTTI), the Permanent Secretary MTTI, Julius Onen, said while Uganda appreciates the developments being undertaken by the negotiations, it needs two parties to sign.
SEATINI Uganda Country Director Jane Nalunga said the mounting pressure from donors especially the EU, will not warrant proper signing of EPAs. "There is too much pressure to seal the deal and yet we still don't know what to sign," Nalunga said. Citing the EAC Trade Ministers meeting in Dar es Salaam in June, Nalunga said: "We failed to sign the agreement in the last meeting that we had in Dar Es Salaam in June because we could not agree".
On June 9, 2010, European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht met EAC Trade Ministers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to discuss the way forward. Both Parties agreed to accelerate and intensify negotiations with a view to concluding a full and comprehensive EPA for mid-November 2010. The EU had considered it in EAC's interest that the five EAC countries establish a joint roadmap. Unfortunately EAC has still not responded to this request. This is likely due to internal reasons - such as the holding of elections in some EAC countries. Currently about one third of Uganda's exports go to the EU Market compared to less than 2% to the US and less than 1% to China and India.
The Sixth Ordinary Session of the African Unioin Conference of Ministers of Trade has been held in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda, between 29 October – 02 November and has issued the “Kigali Declaration On The Economic Partnership Agreement Negotiations”.
The document essentially expresses the Ministers’ concern at the current impasse in the EPA negotiations, due to the lack of progress in resolving the differences between the parties on a number of contentious issues, such as the commitment to concluding development-friendly EPAs that will contribute meaningfully to reducing and ultimately eradicating poverty in African ACP countries. In this regard, the participants urged the EU to dedicate additional, predictable and sustainable resources to specifically address EPA-related adjustment costs and build productive capacities;
Another critical aspect is the AU “Call on the EU Party to clearly show greater appreciation for this central issue and concern of Africa and therefore to display more sense of understanding and flexibility in the EPA negotiations so that EPAs can achieve the development objectives, including the maintenance of adequate policy space, the need to sustain and deepen regional integration and the non-acceptance of WTO-plus
Moreover, the Ministers’ denounced the “pressure exerted by the European Commission on some countries and Regions to sign the interim EPAs, thus prejudicing the progress made in the negotiation process”.
SADC’s hope for a conclusion of negotiations on a new economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) before December is fizzling out as new demands from the EU threaten to scupper chances of a new trade pact.
Felix Njini (The Southern Times, Windhoek)
Southern African Development Community countries are currently trading with the European Union on preferential terms without legal backing following the expiry of the old trade deal in 2008.
African states have been negotiating for a new trade pact with the EU since 2002 when the Cotonou Agreement ended. Negotiations have stalled, first with the SADC countries rejecting an initial draft which they argued was heavily tilted in favour of the EU.
Annascy Mwanyagapo, Director of International Trade in Namibia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, expressed doubt that a pact would be sealed soon.
In any case, Mwanyagapo told The Southern Times that the EU indicated at the negotiators’ last meeting in Johannesburg early this month that ‘time is not of essence’ as it tries to push through a raft of new generation issues such as government procurement, services, competition policy and intellectual property rights. Insistence by the EU on the new generation issues clause could scupper chances of parties ever reaching an agreement.
“If we agree to EU demands on new generation issues we would be opening up our economies to very serious problems. Even in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), this issue is still being negotiated. We have not finished the process at multilateral level, so we can’t have them at regional level. We can’t jump the gun.”
The EU conceded ground on the most favoured nation (MFN) clause and has agreed to implement an agreement struck at the Swakopmund meeting in 2008. The EU is backing down from its earlier position on the MFN that any trade concessions given to countries that contribute more than 1.5 percent of world trade in future be extended to the EU. SADC countries accused the EU of limiting African economies’ scope when negotiating with emerging markets such as China, India or Brazil.
“It looks like the EU initially wanted to test how far we would go and they started with softer issues. Any trade pact has to allow for our long term developmental plans be it Vision 2030 or regional indicative strategic development plan (RISDP). The EU cannot limit our policy space,” Mwanyagapo said.
Most SADC countries have refused to negotiate on new generation issues and signing a deal with the EU on the contentious new generation issue will undermine regional integration. South Africa, Namibia and Angola are said to have refused to open talks on new generation whilst Botswana and Swaziland, under the SACU bloc would want to negotiate with the EU.
Resistance from former European colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) has back-footed the EU, which is still battling the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis.
“Africa on the EU agenda is not as important as three or four years ago plus Europe now has its own challenges to deal with. The Chinese factor is one – lots of Chinese products are going into EU. But because of China’s role in Africa, they (EU) don’t necessarily want to be squeezed out by China.”
Surinam will have to look for consumer markets outside Europe for the export of its bananas and rice. This according to Trade and Industry minister Michael Miskin. Recently the minister was in Brussels, where he attended a joined ministerial meeting of ACP-EU (African-Caribbean and Pacific-European Union).
According to Miskin, Surinam have now a 'reasonable' access to the European market, but he stresses that this position may drastically change in the future. In case Europe is successful in offering access to all other rice and banana producing countries in the world into their import duty free market, the position of Surinam as competitor would be weakened enormously. There are many countries, which are in a position to supply bananas cheaper on the European market than at the price Surinam supplies the same product.
Miskin: "We must start to look for outlets outside of Europe now and also change the diversification of products." When talking to dWT the minister mentioned seeing good possibilities for Surinam rice and bananas on the American market. But then the country must change to the production of end products, such as banana-meal for instance. Microwave rice-pom is another example mentioned by the minister as this is very popular in the America's. Miskin says, that he advised Desi Bouterse to become a member of the Caribbean Development Bank, so that Surinam and Surinam products would have better access to American markets. Sooner or later the European market will become import duty free for everybody and therefore alternatives have to be looked now for by Surinam. Miskin has, together with his colleagues of ACP and the EU evaluated the present state of affairs of amongst others, condition of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). These are to protect the ACP countries against the sale of their products on the European markets. Countries outside of the ACP are dead against this privileged position and demand that the European market is freely available to everybody in terms of agreements with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
At the meeting in Brussels the African countries made it clear that they are still against arranging an EPA. Surinam have in the Carecon connection entered into an EPA with the EU for the sale of bananas. The African countries, divided into four regions, have different arrangements with Europe and are still in a privileged position. Miskin agrees to be in favour of an early ratification by Surinam of EPA, as a result of which funds from the 9th and 10th European development fund (EDF) are safe. Miskin says to have used his presence in Brussels to discuss export paper work with Remco Vahl, acting director of the department of Trade of the European Commission. Exporters need a certain form in order to be able to export their products to Europe. The Chamber of Commerce and Factories (KKF) in Surinam have these forms. It has become known that exporters also obtain these forms from other sources. The documents differ in text and colour, which cause problems when clearing in Europe. It has been agreed, that dispensation will be granted to Surinam for the coming nine months and that they can use the KKF forms for export. Members of the ministerial delegation included also HL-director Mauro Tuur, Yvette Rokadji and experts of the Surinam embassy in Brussels.
Few people in East Africa know about the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) being negotiated between the European Union (EU) on the one hand and the countries of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). It is primarily a trade agreement, but underlying it is a number of sensitive political and developmental issues. Fifty years after Africa gained its independence from colonial rule, the relationship between it and the former empire is still a hot issue.
Written by Yash Tandon
Few people in East Africa know about the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) being negotiated between the European Union (EU) on the one hand and the countries of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). It is primarily a trade agreement, but underlying it is a number of sensitive political and developmental issues. Fifty years after Africa gained its independence from colonial rule, the relationship between it and the former empire is still a hot issue. One of the compelling aspects of re-negotiating this relationship is the requirement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), of which both the EU and most African countries are members, that the old ‘trade preferences’ must be dismantled. Under the ‘imperial system of preferences’ instituted by the Empire, its colonial outposts were given ‘preferential’ access to the European market.
What is often lost sight of is the fact that these ‘preferences’ were for the benefit of Europe. Europe needed secure sources of raw materials and food for their industrialisation and security against disruption of food supplies, especially during times of wars. Today this reality is reversed in the language of trade negotiations. The ‘preferences’ are presented as if they are a kind of ‘favour’ that Europe grants to its former colonies.
The WTO now demands that these preferences be done away with and that all members of the WTO deal with one another on the basis of ‘reciprocity’. The old preferential system was based on ‘non-reciprocity’ - Africa for example did not have to provide Europe with ‘reciprocal’ access to African markets in return for their ‘preferential’ access to Europe.
This is an important point. Today, for example, the horticultural industry in East Africa has a ‘preferential’ access to Europe; it is subject to a lower tariff than flowers or vegetables coming from, for example, Costa Rica or the Philippines. In other words, East African growers have a ‘competitive advantage’ over their counterparts in other parts of the world. In return, East Africa does not have to give to Europe a ‘preferential’ access to its markets. This is what ‘non-reciprocity’ means. But we are now in the era of globalisation in which these arrangements are now outdated. These have to be removed under the WTO that requires a ‘Most Favoured Nations’ (MFN) treatment.
Problem with EPAs?
The problem is both with the substance of the issues being negotiated and the manner in which it is being done. The EU negotiates as one entity, a powerful empire. African countries are small, divided and fragmented. Africa is hostage to pressure from Europe - in the form of threats, sanctions as well as ‘aid’ sweeteners - to agree to something that may not be in the long term interest of Africa. In fact, most African analysts agree that the EPAs are really designed to perpetuate Europe’s imperial hegemony over Africa.
The former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, described EPAs as an attempt by Europe to recolonize Africa. It is, he said, ‘another Berlin Conference for the scramble of Africa’. Referring to the 1884 Berlin Conference, Mkapa said: ‘If you fool me once, shame is on you, fool me twice shame is on me.’ He said Africans were taken for a ride during the Berlin Conference and that should serve as an important lesson to them when they negotiate trading partnerships with Europe.
In fact it is a serious matter, the more so because very few people including the private sector in East Africa (a section of which is going to be hit very hard under the EPA) know very little about it. Trade experts at the South Centre (an intergovernmental think-tank of the South based in Geneva) had this to say: ‘Negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements between Africa and Europe has led to an untenable situation in Africa in several ways: Firstly, it would not be an understatement to say that the EPAs have ruptured African sub-regional integration efforts. Secondly, the EPAs, once implemented, will further contribute to the deindustrialization of Africa, as well as the worsening of the food crisis which is essentially a crisis of food production. The EU will increase food exports to the continent, and for Africa, this is tantamount to the importation of unemployment.
Because of this only 10 out of 47 African countries have signed EPAs to date. Some of those that signed an ‘Interim’ EPA (IEPA) in 2007 are now holding back on ratification due to threats of regional disintegration (for example, South Africa and Namibia in the SADC region).
Thirty-four out of 47 African countries negotiating EPAs are the so-called Least Developed Countries (LDCs). They do not need the EPAs to retain preferential market access. Under the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, all LDCs have duty-free quota-free treatment of their current exports to the EU.
And yet many LDCs have felt compelled to initial the IEPAs (as has happened in East Africa) because although four of the five countries (Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) are LDCs, the EU has insisted that for the non-LDC country in the region (Kenya) to retain its duty-free access to the EU market on, for example, cut flowers, the entire EAC must sign an EPA.
This is detrimental not only to the other countries in the region, but within Kenya itself it is detrimental to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are dependent more on the domestic and regional markets than on the export market.
Dangers of EPAs
The complexity of the EPA negotiations, and the language in which they are couched, can baffle most experts. However there are organisations such as the South Centre and NGOs such as the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) that has offices in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa that try and distil the main issues, breaking them down into more easily understood language, and work out the implications. What is offered to us as a ‘development’ agenda by the EU is in fact anti-developmental. EPAs may help Europe. They will not help Africa.
These are highly technical and contentious issues. We should not open doors to these until we have carefully analysed their implications for our economies, especially future industrialisation, and their negative impact on our research and knowledge based institutions.
EPAs are damaging to our regional integration, damaging to African unity, and will undermine the struggles and the outcomes of what Africa has, under great difficulties, managed to achieve within the multilateral trading system of the WTO. Author: Yash Tandon is a writer on development theory and practice, chairman of SEATINI and senior adviser to the South Centre.
The significance of non-traditional barriers to trade has greatly increased in recent years, overtaking even the relevance of tariffs and quotas in trade between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Non-traditional barriers, which typically take the form of regulatory requirements and administrative procedures to determine conformity with these requirements, can be formidable obstacles to ACP access to the European market.
While certain ACP countries, such as Kenya, have succeeded in adjusting to the regulatory requirements they face on the EU market in important export sectors, many developing countries have encountered serious difficulties in doing so. This has had significant consequences for their trade.
The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) currently under negotiation between the EU and ACP countries provide a promising new forum in which such concerns can be addressed. However, if the EPAs are to be truly effective in promoting development and increasing ACP exports to Europe, as officials have promised, then these agreements will have to provide some innovative solutions to the challenges posed by non-traditional barriers to trade; these solutions will have to go beyond what currently exists in WTO rules.
Non-traditional barriers to trade typically come in two forms: technical barriers to trade (TBT measures) and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.
TBT measures lay down mandatory substantive requirements or voluntary standards relating to product characteristics or their related processes and production methods. They also include labelling requirements that apply to products, processes and production methods. In addition, the category includes administrative procedures that assess whether products/processes conform to the applicable requirements.
SPS measures can be seen as a subcategory of TBT measures in that they may also take the form of regulations, standards or conformity assessment procedures. However, the subcategory of SPS measures is defined according to the purpose of the measure, namely the protection of human, animal or plant health from risks from food/feed or from pests/diseases of plants/animals. This subcategory of technical regulations is often addressed separately in trade agreements.
Clearly, TBT and SPS measures often serve important policy goals such as consumer protection, but they can also be misused as tools of protectionism. To that end, the WTO’s SPS and TBT Agreements contain disciplines that diminish the trade-restrictive effects and protectionist potential of these measures.
But some observers say that these agreements do not go far enough. Indeed, developing countries have identified several inadequacies in these agreements - inadequacies that could be more effectively addressed on a somewhat smaller scale, such as in the context of a regional trade agreement among parties that have a long history of trade and cooperation. This is precisely the case with the EPAs between the EU and the ACP groupings.
In their current form, the EPAs fall short of their promise to whole-heartedly promote development in ACP countries by ensuring effective access to the EU market. They do not contain sufficiently detailed provisions on SPS and TBT measures nor do they set out procedural guidelines for operationalising key disciplines in these areas. As such, the EPAs fail to address SPS and TBT measures in a manner that goes beyond the existing WTO rules and takes full advantage of the closer integration between the EPA Parties.
There have been some hopeful signs on this front, however, as embodied in the recent proposal on SPS matters in the EPA negotiations between the EU and the countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) grouping. But much more must be done. Particularly, the EU needs to bolster its commitment to development cooperation, which is essential to building the capacity of ACP countries to address supply-side constraints to meeting sanitary, phytosanitary and technical requirements for market access. Currently, the EPA’s language on this front largely consists of vague statements of objectives and priorities and does not offer firm budgetary commitments or mechanisms for timely and predictable disbursements. This gives cause for concern.
Author Denise Prévost is Associate Professor in international economic law at Maastricht University. She is also the Deputy Academic Director of the Institute for Globalisation and International Regulation. This article was adapted from a longer report that was published under ICTSD’s Programme on EPAs and Regionalism.
The project Partnership for Change has contributed to the fuelling the debate over the establishment of economic and development policies as well as international cooperation actions, coherent with the Millennium Development Goals and more effective in the fight against poverty.
Partnership for Change has promoted various events and produced different tools to reach all the project beneficiaries. Such tools have improved accessibility to documentation and to the studies related to the MDGs and EPAs, empowering the organized civil society active in international cooperation, demanding institutional stakeholders to establish coherence between all policies and raising the awareness of media and individuals on these issues.
Some actions and resources, such as a notebook, a diary and a thematic exhibition, are still going to be finalized and on our web site www.africa-eu.org you will receive every updating on our last initiatives. Moreover, on our educational website http://www.cmo.nl/epa-uk you can find information and practical tools for development education.
The project is going to phase down, but we will continue fight against poverty and draw public attention over the impact of unbalanced trade relations on development process.
Sincere thanks for joining us and following our news!!
This web site is produced with the financial assistance of the European Union by Amici dei Popoli NGO in cooperation Cestas, CMO, Hegoa and Risc. The contents of this web site are the sole responsability of Amici dei Popoli NGO and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.
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