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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Press Release: STOP the EU's unfair trade deals

Press Release: STOP the EU's unfair trade deals
Umzabalazo we Jubilee and Economic Justice Network
18th of April 2007

On 19 April 2007 civil society organisations and social movements worldwide are holding a day of action against the unfair trade deals that the European Union is forcing on 76 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, of which 39 are least developed countries. In South Africa, Umzabalazo we Jubilee and allies will be protesting outside of the EU's offices in Pretoria at 14:00 on the 19th of April 2007. (Address below)

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are comprehensive free trade agreements that are set to force ACP regions to eliminate trade barriers to almost all EU imports.
The EU Commission insists that these deals include far-reaching liberalisation of investments, trade in services and government procurement and commitments on competition policy and intellectual property rights. The deadline for concluding these trade deals is 31 December 2007.

Many ACP countries, especially in Africa, have indicated that they are not ready to sign such agreements. Developing countries want to continue to strengthen regional integration and develop regional policies before making commitments to the European Union. However, the EU is threatening to reinstate higher import duties on ACP exports and reduce aid to ACP countries if they do not sign EPAs by the end-of-year deadline.

The EU is also set to force regional and bilateral trade deals on Latin American and
Asian countries as part of the EU's new aggressive trade policy as laid out in the strategy paper Global Europe – competing in the world that was presented by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in October 2006.

We condemn the use of such bullying tactics against some of the world's poorest countries as well as the demand for reciprocal trade relations between countries of such unequal economic strength. The opening up of ACP markets to unfair competition from EU exports will undermine regional integration efforts, and destroy infant industries and small-scale agriculture.

Millions of peasants, small farmers and fisherfolk will suffer, especially in Africa where up to 90 per cent of the national populations depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Industrial workers throughout the ACP are set to lose their jobs. Even the EU's own impact assessment has predicted that EPAs could lead to the collapse of West Africa's manufacturing sector.

The EU is aggressively pushing the "Singapore issues" that include investment, competition policy and public procurement, even though these have already been rejected by developing countries at the WTO as they would have a devastating impact on poor communities and their environment.

We, the undersigned, fully support the struggle of social movements and civil society organisations in the ACP to prevent their governments from signing an agreement that would have catastrophic consequences for their people and environment.

We are equally concerned about other ongoing and upcoming bilateral and regional trade deals that the EU is set to impose on Asian and Latin American countries on behalf of European corporations.

We reject the EU's new aggressive trade policy as outlined in Global Europ –competing in the world. This strategy will see the proliferation of EU bilateral negotiations with South Korea, ASEAN, India, Central America and the Andean Community that will soon be added to the existing EU negotiations with the ACP, the Gulf States and MERCOSUR.

The "Mandelson doctrine" is only about serving the interests of European corporations, offering them new markets, investment opportunities and access to natural resources and energy reserves, and enforcing their technology monopolies at the expense of food sovereignty, national policy space, and environmental and social protection.

We call on the governments of the ACP and, in particular the South African Government, to resist these offensive proposals being pushed by the EU. We call on the social movements and civil society organisations in these countries and in Europe to mobilise to prevent the signing of such EU corporate trade deals.



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