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NGOs demand immediate end to EPAs

Source: The Namibian – by Brigette Weidlich

The envisaged Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) the European Union wants to sign with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries would not help development in Africa but would continue the economic stranglehold former colonising Western countries still have on African resources, a regional organisation has claimed.

“Not many African countries have signed the EPAs so far and it is not too late to stop these agreements”, said Rangarirai Machemedze of the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) of Zimbabwe.

“We can demand the parliaments of our [African] countries not to ratify the EPAs and we can organise marches to draw the attention to those agreements the EU wants to sign,” Machemedze said at a public discussion in Windhoek on Wednesday.

SEATINI is linked to the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN), a regional network embracing a wide range of civil society organisations, labour and social movements from all the countries of Southern African that held a closed workshop in Windhoek on Wednesday and ended with a public meeting on EPAs.

Namibia initialled the controversial EPA three years ago but raised several concerns which it wanted to be addressed. These include infant-industry protection for Namibian-manufactured products against future EU imports and also preventing cheap cereals like wheat or maize from entering Namibia.

In a statement issued yesterday, SAPSN said “we commend the stand taken by the government of Namibia – actively supported by Namibian labour and social movements and other national stakeholders – not to accept the many highly contentious demands inserted into the EPA negotiations by the EU.”

“We also note that EC negotiators manipulate the perceived aid and trade needs of various African governments to propel them into agreeing to the extensive opening up of their economies to European exporters and investors.

“The self-serving and opportunistic tactics of the EC are also evident in their negotiation and initialling of an interim EPA agreement with the government of Zimbabwe which they simultaneously denounce and sanction as a pariah state,” the statement said.

“We urge all African governments to resist the EU’s EPA offensive, reverse the damaging fragmentation of SADC and counter the threats to the integrity of SACU and, instead, to reunite and act decisively to advance and deepen the development cooperation and integration of the Southern African region.

“We urge all African governments not to compromise their policy-making (political) rights and obligations to their peoples by signing long-term trade, investment, services and other areas of liberalisation through EPAs with the EU, or other similar ‘free trade’ agreements with other governments, North or South.”