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South Africa says EU pressured Africa to sign EPAs

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by BAK, Dec 31, 2007.

  1. BAK

    BAK JF-Expert Member

    #1
    Dec 31, 2007
    Joined: Feb 11, 2007
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    South Africa says EU pressured Africa to sign EPAs

    By DAVID CRONIN
    Inter Press Service

    African governments signed Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union “under duress,” according to Dr Rob Davies, South Africa’s Deputy Trade and Industry Minister.

    Some 35 of almost 80 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries involved in negotiations aimed at reaching EPAs had accepted deals with the European Commission by December 19.

    Dr Davies alleged that many of these trade accords were reached because the Commission had threatened to impose onerous tariffs on goods from ACP countries destined for the Union’s markets should EPAs not be concluded this year. “This led to a situation where a country that was unwilling to sign on did so under huge duress and with little enthusiasm,” he said.

    Although its neighbours — Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho — have entered into agreements, South Africa has decided not to. This is despite the fact that the five countries comprise the Southern African Customs Union.

    One of the major points of divergence to emerge during talks between South Africa and the EU concerned the latter’s insistence that a “most favoured nation” clause be inserted into the agreement.

    Such a clause would require South Africa to ensure that any trade concession it grants to a country enjoying more than a one per cent share of world merchandise exports — such as China, Turkey, India and Brazil — is automatically conferred on the EU, too.

    “This would lock us into a primary relationship with the EU for ever more,” said Dr Davies. “It would be an unacceptable limit on our sovereignty.”

    Nonetheless, Dr Davies said he was encouraged by assurances from José Manuel Barroso, the Commission’s president, during the recent summit between EU and African leaders in Lisbon, Portugal.

    Mr Barroso promised that further discussions on the EPAs would happen in 2008 and that there would be an opportunity to revise provisions that ACP countries regard as contentious.

    Mr Barroso’s intervention has been considered as more conciliatory than the inflexible stance adopted by Peter Mandelson, Europe’s Trade Commissioner, who has insisted that ACP countries commit themselves to far-reaching trade liberalisation in order to comply with rules set by the World Trade Organisation.

    “It is certainly a pull-back from the ‘take-it-or-leave-it, this-is-all-I-can-offer-you’ approach that has governed negotiations, particularly in the last round,” Dr Davies said.

    The EPAs require that ACP countries remove at least 80 per cent of the trade taxes they levy on imports from Europe.

    This requirement has been denounced by non-governmental organisations, fearful that farmers and nascent industries in poor countries will be unable to compete with an avalanche of imports that are often cheaper than goods produced domestically and, in the case of food, highly subsidised.

    Mr Mandelson hit back at those criticisms in a speech delivered in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on December 12.

    “The EPAs have been subjected to an aggressive NGO campaign,” he said. “The EU has been accused of forcing open African markets to European companies; of bullying poor countries into liberalisation they do not want or need

    “What strikes me most about these arguments is that they carry such a profoundly distorted view of the value of trade. More importantly, they show no respect for the many ACP negotiators and reform-minded ministers who have worked hard with the EU to build agreements that reflect development needs,” said Mandelson.

    He claimed that South Africa, which already signed a trade agreement with the EU in 1999, does not “seem to speak for the many African countries who need these agreements and who are signing up to them.”

    But Dr Davies dismissed the suggestion that his government has been trying to impede economic progress in Africa.

    “It’s manifestly untrue that we are trying to hold everyone back,” he said.

    “We were not legally obliged to enter into the EPA (negotiating) process. But we did so because we thought it could be a step to regional integration (in Southern Africa). I’m afraid it has worked out in an endgame that could contribute to regional disintegration.”

    Sophie Powell from the British fair trade campaign group, Traidcraft, echoed Davies’ remarks.

    “It is very clear that countries have signed up as a defence against the threat of tariffs,” she said.

    “No alternative was presented by the Commission, as it piled on the pressure. This really is no way to make a pro-development trade policy.”

    The tariffs will not apply to 32 ACP states that are recognised by the United Nations as least developed countries (LDCs). These are eligible to benefit from a scheme known as Everything But Arms, under which most of their non-military exports can enter the Union free of duties or quotas.

    Yet EU governments decided earlier this month that any ACP country not categorised as an LDC will lose the current preferential access it enjoys to the Union’s markets on January 1 unless it signs an EPA. Tariffs — often exceeding 10 per cent — will be applied to those countries’ exports, with an adverse effect on their earnings.

    Ten countries — Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Tonga, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue and Nigeria — could face such tariffs, as they had not yet signed EPAs as the Brussels institutions prepared for their Christmas holidays.

    The EU’s threat came despite calls by development aid ministers representing four of its 27 governments that no ACP country should be put in a worse-off position if it cannot sign an EPA.

    Glenys Kinnock, a Welsh Socialist member of the European Parliament, said she was “baffled” that only ministers from Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark had issued that plea.

    “I am also obliged to question whether EPAs in their current form can fulfil the promise that they can be tools for development,” Ms Kinnock added.

    “Many people concur that cohesive and planned regional integration will be a key driver of economic development. Yet the EPAs that the European Commission is pressuring ACP countries to sign will have an inevitable detrimental impact on regional economic integration, particularly in Africa.”
     
  2. Richard

    Richard JF-Expert Member

    #2
    Dec 31, 2007
    Joined: Oct 23, 2006
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    This clearly shows a high degree of hipocricy among African nations.

    Since independence from former colonial masters Africa has never enjoyed it true independence rather than continuing to suffer years and years of absolute poverty and neo-colonialism.

    This guy Peter Mandelson was once one of young men working for British colonies in Africa and Caribean before independence to these colonies.

    What I suspect is this thing neo-colonialism which is going on and will continue to strive for years to come.

    Mr Mndelson has been working tirelessly to insure this agreement (EPA) is signed before December 31, 2007.

    I've no doubt that his efforts will be successful, especially now several other African governments have given the preliminary go-ahead to such deals.

    Fifty years ago, most of former colonies in Africa started to achieve independence. It is depressing that 50 years later Mandelson, a politician from its former colonial overlord, should be so determined to deprive these countries of the freedom they needs to lift themselves out of poverty.

    Under an EPA, the former colonies will have to remove virtually all the measures it has retained to shield its farmers from European imports.

    This will lead to a surge in imports for a range of agricultural goods - of 18% for poultry meat, for example. And it is difficult to see how the chicken farmers will be able to compete with heavily subsidised (and hence cheaper) meat from Europe.

    But it cannot be ignored that at least one-third of Africa's public spending is financed by overseas aid or debt cancellation. With the EU - and, on a bilateral basis, the UK - among its largest donors, Mandelson wields enormous power. Shame on him for using it so destructively.

    The PDF below illustrate this kind of hipocricy which will never end.

    Poor Africa!
     

    Attached Files:

  3. G.MWAKASEGE

    G.MWAKASEGE Senior Member

    #3
    Jan 2, 2008
    Joined: Jun 29, 2007
    Messages: 153
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    By DAVID CRONIN
    Inter Press Service

    African governments signed Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union “under duress,” according to Dr Rob Davies, South Africa’s Deputy Trade and Industry Minister.

    Some 35 of almost 80 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries involved in negotiations aimed at reaching EPAs had accepted deals with the European Commission by December 19.

    Dr Davies alleged that many of these trade accords were reached because the Commission had threatened to impose onerous tariffs on goods from ACP countries destined for the Union’s markets should EPAs not be concluded this year. “This led to a situation where a country that was unwilling to sign on did so under huge duress and with little enthusiasm,” he said.

    Although its neighbours — Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho — have entered into agreements, South Africa has decided not to. This is despite the fact that the five countries comprise the Southern African Customs Union.

    One of the major points of divergence to emerge during talks between South Africa and the EU concerned the latter’s insistence that a “most favoured nation” clause be inserted into the agreement.

    Such a clause would require South Africa to ensure that any trade concession it grants to a country enjoying more than a one per cent share of world merchandise exports — such as China, Turkey, India and Brazil — is automatically conferred on the EU, too.

    “This would lock us into a primary relationship with the EU for ever more,” said Dr Davies. “It would be an unacceptable limit on our sovereignty.”

    Nonetheless, Dr Davies said he was encouraged by assurances from José Manuel Barroso, the Commission’s president, during the recent summit between EU and African leaders in Lisbon, Portugal.

    Mr Barroso promised that further discussions on the EPAs would happen in 2008 and that there would be an opportunity to revise provisions that ACP countries regard as contentious.

    Mr Barroso’s intervention has been considered as more conciliatory than the inflexible stance adopted by Peter Mandelson, Europe’s Trade Commissioner, who has insisted that ACP countries commit themselves to far-reaching trade liberalisation in order to comply with rules set by the World Trade Organisation.

    “It is certainly a pull-back from the ‘take-it-or-leave-it, this-is-all-I-can-offer-you’ approach that has governed negotiations, particularly in the last round,” Dr Davies said.

    The EPAs require that ACP countries remove at least 80 per cent of the trade taxes they levy on imports from Europe.

    This requirement has been denounced by non-governmental organisations, fearful that farmers and nascent industries in poor countries will be unable to compete with an avalanche of imports that are often cheaper than goods produced domestically and, in the case of food, highly subsidised.

    Mr Mandelson hit back at those criticisms in a speech delivered in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on December 12.

    “The EPAs have been subjected to an aggressive NGO campaign,” he said. “The EU has been accused of forcing open African markets to European companies; of bullying poor countries into liberalisation they do not want or need

    “What strikes me most about these arguments is that they carry such a profoundly distorted view of the value of trade. More importantly, they show no respect for the many ACP negotiators and reform-minded ministers who have worked hard with the EU to build agreements that reflect development needs,” said Mandelson.

    He claimed that South Africa, which already signed a trade agreement with the EU in 1999, does not “seem to speak for the many African countries who need these agreements and who are signing up to them.”

    But Dr Davies dismissed the suggestion that his government has been trying to impede economic progress in Africa.

    “It’s manifestly untrue that we are trying to hold everyone back,” he said.

    “We were not legally obliged to enter into the EPA (negotiating) process. But we did so because we thought it could be a step to regional integration (in Southern Africa). I’m afraid it has worked out in an endgame that could contribute to regional disintegration.”

    Sophie Powell from the British fair trade campaign group, Traidcraft, echoed Davies’ remarks.

    “It is very clear that countries have signed up as a defence against the threat of tariffs,” she said.

    “No alternative was presented by the Commission, as it piled on the pressure. This really is no way to make a pro-development trade policy.”

    The tariffs will not apply to 32 ACP states that are recognised by the United Nations as least developed countries (LDCs). These are eligible to benefit from a scheme known as Everything But Arms, under which most of their non-military exports can enter the Union free of duties or quotas.

    Yet EU governments decided earlier this month that any ACP country not categorised as an LDC will lose the current preferential access it enjoys to the Union’s markets on January 1 unless it signs an EPA. Tariffs — often exceeding 10 per cent — will be applied to those countries’ exports, with an adverse effect on their earnings.

    Ten countries — Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Tonga, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue and Nigeria — could face such tariffs, as they had not yet signed EPAs as the Brussels institutions prepared for their Christmas holidays.

    The EU’s threat came despite calls by development aid ministers representing four of its 27 governments that no ACP country should be put in a worse-off position if it cannot sign an EPA.

    Glenys Kinnock, a Welsh Socialist member of the European Parliament, said she was “baffled” that only ministers from Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark had issued that plea.

    “I am also obliged to question whether EPAs in their current form can fulfil the promise that they can be tools for development,” Ms Kinnock added.

    “Many people concur that cohesive and planned regional integration will be a key driver of economic development. Yet the EPAs that the European Commission is pressuring ACP countries to sign will have an inevitable detrimental impact on regional economic integration, particularly in Africa.”
     
  4. Kapinga

    Kapinga JF-Expert Member

    #4
    Jan 2, 2008
    Joined: Nov 20, 2007
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    Even though Apartheid was immoral it sure put south africa as an economic powerhouse..and now they can negotiate with the west without begging...sisi na ka uhuru ketu ka 1961 hadi leo raisi ni round tuu kila siku kumwomba mzungu misaaada...Sometimes i wonder if african countries will ever reach any economic status that is equal or to be compared to the west..Maybe due to the lack of the economic development in africa there is a balance of some sort..if all african countries were in the same economic level as asian states (india, china etc) wont it be a bit too crowded or world markets over saturated?? Maoni tuu...maswaali meeengi!!! LOL
     
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