Zimbabwe CSOs against Europe's unfair trade deals
Eppmwengo, 19 April 2007
We members of civil society organisations based in Zimbabwe have considered the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) being currently discussed between the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific states and the European Union. We represent a broad spectrum of civil society groups working on development, debt, food security, gender, human rights, faith-based issues, labour issues, trade issues, environment issues and health equity. In negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as well as in regional and bilateral trade negotiations like the Economic Partnership Agreement, ACP countries have sought developmental agreements with non reciprocal arrangements because of the asymmetries in world trade, their lack of economic power in relation to their developed counterparts and their serious poverty challenges. It is vital that all these negotiations prioritise the development dimension of trade. Therefore the success and failure of EPAs negotiations has to be measured not mainly against market access of interest to developing countries, and removal of trade distortions in an asymmetrical manner, rather it has to be measured against the ability of the major trading partners to commit themselves on development. As members of civil society organizations, we are concerned that the on going negotiations are complex without clear outcomes and are between two unequal parties. The ACP countries are former colonies of the EU and they are amongst the poorest world’s nations, requiring resources from the EU to enable them to engage in the negotiations. They are also divided between Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and non-LDCs; they are divided by initiatives like Everything But Arms (EBA) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for which some qualify and others do not. They are also divided between different continents. The EU, on the other hand, is united and powerful. We are therefore concerned that a united Europe is negotiating with a divided Africa. This has echoes with the partitioning of Africa in Berlin in 1884. Complete free trade between two such unequal partners will lead to substantial negative development outcomes. The experience of implementing structural adjustment policies under the tutelage of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) shows that premature market opening not only leads to the displacement of uncompetitive domestic producers, but it also allows resources to leave the country. We reiterate our position that liberalizing local food markets in the face of such unequal competition is not a prescription for improving efficiency, but a recipe for the destruction of livelihoods on a massive scale. The imbalances in agriculture for example, pity farmers (including peasants) in east and southern Africa (ESA) against those from the EU, who on average receive hundred times more in agricultural support. ESA farmers’ ability to sell on the local market can be undercut by rapid trade liberalization that opens the way to surges of cheap imports. The final EPA agreement scheduled for signing in December 2007 could have a profound impact on areas of health and health services. The provisions for intellectual property rights, in which the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) intention and ESA commitment to protect trade related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) flexibilities to ensure access to medicines and medical technologies is evident, but not yet articulated in the draft EPA. The experience of other EU free trade agreements (FTAs) suggest that ESA countries and their parliaments and civil societies need to vigilantly ensure that the draft text put forward by ESA in this area is effected in the EPA, viz to provide for full TRIPS flexibilities and for capacity support for their implementation. The provisions for trade in health and health-related services are not yet specified in the context of EU's own protection of its public health services, but there is pressure for wider service liberalisation under the EPA. We urge that ESA countries make no commitments in any health or health-related services beyond what is already committed at WTO. Governments should retain their authority to regulate health service provisioning and provide in the EPA for health impact assessment to be implemented prior to commitments being made in any areas of service liberalisation that may have an impact on health. The EPA should also include specific commitments in health workers, including to ethical recruitment and to EU investment in public budget support for production and financial and non financial retention measures in ESA countries. Implementation of the EPA has financial implications for the ESA countries, stemming from the direct economic measures, the institutional demands on implementation and the spill over impacts of trade measures, including in areas such as health. It is likely that EU will be expected to cover EPA adjustment costs from its existing aid budget without significant additional resources, placing unfair strain on ESA countries. The cost of implementation for ESA countries needs to be estimated, and the sources of funds to meet this agreed. Negotiations on aid need to be linked to a costing of measures and to the costs of compensating people for the losses encountered as a result of implementing the provisions of the EPA. It is important that the EPA includes predictable funding of an EPA adjustment facility, as proposed by the AU Trade Ministers (Nairobi Declaration on EPAs, 12 April 2006). We therefore call on the EU member states to: • Listen and act upon the concerns of ACP countries • Ensure that ACP countries are not pressured to negotiate on issues they have already rejected at the WTO • Ensure that any new trade deal do not force poor countries to open markets to unfair competition. • Stop the pressure for trade and investment liberalisation • Actively seek alternatives to EPAs that reduce poverty and promote development We therefore call on all African governments to put the needs of the people first rather than those of the markets. We strongly believe that the sustainability and credibility of EPAs depend on taking into account the developmental interests and needs of developing countries. African countries are not asking for charity by demanding development-oriented outcomes, they are asking for equity and justice.