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Civil society at JPA invite EU to clean up acts on trade

Seventy-eight members each of the European parliament and Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific, will this week in Ljubljana, Slovenia, attend the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly.

The assembly will also be attended by civil society organisations from ACP countries and the EU.

The civil society organisations present in Slovenia to engage with parliamentarians from other countries on the future of development and trade, consider Europe as “still failing developing countries on trade and aid.”

“After five years of negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the European Commission has very little to show for,” said Marc Maes, Chairman of the Concord ACP Trade Working Group, pointing out that “Europe has been protecting its borders and economy to reinforce its internal market for 50 years.”

Maes said “ACP countries cannot be expected to do this in five years,” because “The EPAs were concluded in haste and under a great deal of pressure from the European Commission,” adding “these arrangements need to be thrown out.”

Mr. Louis Straker, A Member of Parliament from St Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Caribbean, echoed these comments by saying “if we had not signed up to the EPAs, we would have been subjected to much higher tariffs. We had no choice.”

Local farmer organisations from Africa that also traveled to the Joint Parliamentary Assembly reminded the assembly that over two thirds of those who are hungry in the world are farmers.

“EPAs should not threaten our livelihoods, they should protect them. In their current form, the agreements will expose us to unfair and harsh competition,” said Elisabeth Mpofu, representing farmers from ACP countries.

European and African civil society organisations at the JPA in Slovenia are demanding real ownership for ACP countries over how European aid is spent.

“Political sovereignty of ACP countries is at risk of being jeopardised by development aid from Europe. Whilst aid is welcome, ownership over the way it is spent still is not in the hands of local populations,” said Tamim Amijee of the Non-State Actors Support Programme in Tanzania.

Reacting on the lack of ownership for developing countries, Dr. Bernadette Lahai, a parliamentarian from Sierra Leone said “there are more doctors from Sierra Leone in the USA than in our own country.

“Financing health needs to be a priority for EU funding. This is not the case currently,” Lahai said.

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade agreements being negotiated between the EU and ACP countries since 2002, intended to further the development of ACP countries.

However they are criticised for being overly focused on far-reaching trade liberalisation.

Furthermore, they do not take into account, the widespread poverty in ACP countries.

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