Call to Action Against Europe's
6 March 2008
Civil Society Organizations - Africa Trade Network
We, civil society organisations, including farmers, workers,
women's, faith-based and students' groups and organisations, call
on our people to redouble their efforts to stop the self-serving
free trade agreements, misleading designated as 'Economic
Partnership Agreements' that Europe seeks to impose on African,
Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and which will destroy the
economies of these countries.
At our meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, from 20-23 February
2008, under the umbrella of the Africa Trade Network, to review
the latest developments in the EPA negotiations, we reaffirm our
unequivocal opposition these agreements
When the EPA negotiations were launched, civil society
organisations from all over Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and
Europe warned that the EPAs were profoundly anti-developmental. We
pointed out that the EPAs posed a threat not only specifically to
government revenue, local producers and industries, food
sovereignty, essential public services, and the regional
integration of African countries; but also to the right and
capacity in general of African countries to develop their
economies according to the needs of their people and their own
national, regional and continental priorities.
The latest developments in these negotiations have exposed even
more sharply the fundamental outrage represented by the EPAs.
At the end of 2007, Europe deployed manipulative and heavy-handed
tactics in an attempt to force African governments into so-called
'interim' agreements. When it became clear that no African
regional bloc would agree to its demands, the European Commission,
with the active support of its member states, resorted to blatant
divide-and-rule tactics. Europe capitalised on the fact that, for
historical reasons, a few export sectors in Africa are largely
dependent on the European market. By threatening to close access
to these markets and throw export sectors into chaos, Europe rode
roughshod over the regional negotiating processes and instigated
bilateral deals with individual countries.
The more vulnerable African governments were forced to concede to
Europe's demand for 'interim' trade deals, and in the process,
completely undermined regional negotiating positions.
These Interim Economic Partnership Agreements reveal Europe's true
face. The deals are classical free trade agreements that clearly
serve Europe's commercial and geo-economic interests. All the
claims about supporting Africa's development and regional
integration have been exposed as false.
Merely to secure a level of market access that is remarkably
similar to previous levels, ACP countries involved in the interim
agreements have had to concede to opening up their economies to
historically unprecedented levels even beyond the commitments
required at the multilateral level.
In addition, Europe took advantage of the circumstances to insert
clauses in the interim agreements that were not even part of
earlier negotiations. These include the 'most favoured nation'
clause, a standstill clause that forbids countries from ever
raising tariffs on imports from Europe, and restrictions and even
outright prohibitions on export taxes. These provisions only serve
to lock in further these countries into Europe's agenda, and
prevent them from exploring other options and relations within the
changing global order. This will take away their space for
autonomous policy to create jobs, secure livelihoods and pursue
equitable economic development and regional integration.
Throughout the negotiating process, aid has been used as a bait to
lure African governments into long and protracted debates, which
have diverted attention from the fundamental economic issues at
stake and misled them into taking on onerous commitments. As the
'Interim' deals make abundantly clear, promises of additional
financing are illusory.
The negotiating agenda for 2008 aims to deepen the above processes.
Europe intends to lock in the 'interim' agreements with all their
outrageous provisions as quickly as possible. This is a clear
breach of the understanding on which they were provisionally
initialled - namely that the deals were merely a means to avoid
possible retaliation at the WTO and that any contentious elements
would be renegotiated.
In addition, Europe is exerting high levels of pressure on African
governments to expand the negotiations to open up the services
sector and to include binding rules on investment, competition
policy, and government procurement. Such rules will take away the
right of African governments to manage investment and investors in
ways that serve Africa's own development. The inclusion of such
issues is not necessary at the multilateral level and against the
expressed wishes and declarations of Africa's governments and
Today it is clear more than ever, that the EPAs are Europe's means
of locking-in the fundamentally unequal relationships between
Africa and Europe. Viewed from Africa, this is nothing less than
It is more urgent now, than ever, that Africa's people and their
allies unite in action to defeat this agenda.
To this end,We demand that:
- The 'interim' agreements that
have been entered into are nullified; and, to avoid threats of
trade disruption, options such as enhanced GSP Plus and
Everything But Arms are utilised;
- There must be no negotiations on
services, investment, intellectual property, competition,
government procurement and any other new issues in order to
ensure that all sovereignty on these issues is retained at the
national and regional levels;
- There must be a return to our
own development agendas based on national priorities within
consolidated regional communities in Africa;
- Any relationship between Africa
and Europe must be based on our development agenda and recognise
the principles of non-reciprocity, the right to protect our
domestic and regional markets, and our economic sovereignty.
We salute the majority of African
Governments that have so far-resisted any form of agreement with
Europe. We call on these governments to work with the more
vulnerable countries in order to reverse the 'interim'
arrangements. We further call on the governments that have
initialled agreements not to sign and for parliaments to refuse to
ratify them in case they are signed.
We commit ourselves to work with our governments in the quest to
achieve more equitable relationships with Europe that protect our
sovereignty and autonomous developmental options.
We call on civil society organisations and other citizens groups
in Europe and other parts of the world who are also resisting
European free trade agreements to strengthen their active
solidarity with our campaign to Stop the EPAs.
Stop the re-colonisation of Africa!