On the eve of the Lisbon Summit aimed at approving a new Joint Africa-EU Strategy, European and African members of the world’s largest anti-poverty alliance, the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), warn Heads of State not to build the new strategy on unfair trade deals. Campaigners call on the leaders to build Africa-Europe relations based on pro-development trade justice rather than unfair free trade. They also ask them to include civil society inputs, which foster greater ownership of the strategy by the people it directly affects. “Fair and equitable trade must be a fundamental component of relations between Europe and Africa if poverty is ever to be addressed. Yet, the new EU-Africa Strategy suggests that trade relations should be built on free trade and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs),” said Thomas Deve of GCAP Africa, Zimbabwe. “EPAs are being negotiated outside the framework of the Africa-EU Strategy, under a timeframe imposed by the European Union (EU) that will leave poor countries in Africa worse off.”
Civil society groups in Africa and Europe have, for months, loudly criticized the devastating effects these trade deals will have by taking away people’s rights, undermining and decimating the livelihood of African small-scale farmers and producers, as well as disrupting trade and regional integration processes in Africa. “Trade agreements should not limit the development policy choices for any country,” said Christophe Zoungrana, GCAP Africa Coordinator. “There is little partnership, consultation and strategising grounded in African priorities or fundamental trust in the trade negotiation. We do not believe these trade agreements are fair and we should not build a new partnership between Africa and Europe on such an unfair basis.”
GCAP calls on the EU to lift the deadline imposed on the EPAs negotiations (31 December) and to allow more time to explore pro-development alternative deals. Secondly, GCAP calls on the EU not to penalize countries using import tariffs if they fail to sign the EPAs. Finally, the alliance wants to see an end to the use of development aid as a bargaining tool for trade and investment agreements. Civil society movements involved in the consultation process leading to the new EU-Africa Strategy complain that this has not been inclusive, that the objectives of the new strategy are too vague and that adequate resources have not been allocated for implementation.