EU-Asia trade negotiations: SP development spokesman demands explanation

1 January 2007

EU-Asia trade negotiations: SP development spokesman demands explanation

SP Member of Parliament and spokesman on development policy Ewout Irrgang is seeking speedy clarification of the position regarding new negotiations between the EU and a number of Asian countries regarding a free trade agreement. “Any treaty must avoid preventing the Asian countries from continuing to build their own economies," said Mr Irrgang. "The proposal to liberalise public services such as health care, education and the supply of drinking water must be withdrawn.”

The European Commission has asked the Netherlands to vote to give it a mandate to require Asian countries to accept an almost total liberalisation of trade in goods and services. According to the SP Member of Parliament, the member states of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), plus South Korea and India, must retain the possibility to build their own economies behind protective tariffs.

Ewout IrrgangA proposal to allow a form of special treatment depending on a country's level of development has been brought forward, but this would apply only temporarily. India, moreover, would be excluded from even this, despite the fact that it is, as Irrgang points out, plagued by poverty. "While it may be true that it is growing into an enormous economy," he says, "at the same time it's a country where the percentage of undernourished children is higher than it is in much of Africa."

The failure of the WTO negotiations last year means that the number of bilateral free trade agreements between groups of countries is greatly increasing. "The big danger is that in such negotiations the rich countries will try to go back on the concessions which they brought to the WTO talks," Irrgang warns. "The EU must not use these negotiations to make demands which go further than those made in the context of the WTO. If development really is to take priority then demands must be scaled back rather than accentuated. Fair trade is one thing, free trade another."

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