As the deadline for ACP countries to conclude controversial Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU draws closer, the Commission and EU business interests called on anti-poverty activists to put an end to their “caricatural” criticism of negotiations, which they insist are essential to eradicating poverty.
Anti-poverty activists, on 27 September 2007, organised an international day of action against the EPAs to highlight the damage that forcing poor countries to lift their tariffs on products from Europe would have on African livelihoods.
They say the new reciprocal agreements that the EU is “forcing down the throats of developing countries” will give superior European companies unlimited access to developing markets, killing off local industry.
However, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has repeatedly warned that ACP exports will face steep tariffs and lose out on new business investments if they do not sign the EPAs by the end of the year.
The talks have been going on for five years but progress has slowed, notably due to difficult negotiations on transition periods for tariff phase-outs.
Another sticky issue is the investment and competition clauses that the EU wants included in the EPAs, despite the fact that they were removed from the WTO Doha Round of global trade negotiations. The withdrawal followed intense lobbying from developing countries, who feared that these could limit their capacity to protect their domestic firms against multinational corporations.