Trade agreements: "disguised recolonisation of developing countries"

26 November 2007

Trade agreements: "disguised recolonisation of developing countries"

SP Member of Parliament and development policy spokesman Ewout Irrgang has asked the government to call a halt to the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which the European Union is seeking to conclude with the former colonies of its member states. The FTAs, which the EU wants signed before the end of the year, will be devastating for the economies of these countries, Irrgang argues.

Ewout IrrgangThe Free Trade Agreements, also known as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), are aimed at reforming the old system governing trade between EU member states and numerous countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific – the so-called ACP countries. Under a longstanding series of agreements, former colonies are given favourable access to the European market, affording them the opportunity to get their export sectors off the ground and build their economies. The EU is now, however, pressuring the ACP countries to open up to imports, demanding at least 94% liberalisation, a fact made public in a letter from the Jamaican trade minister, as well as other dcouments.

The probability is great that this would have enormous consequences for these countries' economies, in terms of employment, food security and state revenues in the regions involved. Haiti, Jamaica's grindingly poor neighbour, under pressure from the IMF and World Bank, has already opened its borders to imports, resulting in the destruction of its domestic rice producers as cheap, subsidised rice flooded in from the United States. The EU, of course, also pays out huge agricultural and export subsidies. The EPAs will mean the disappearance of import levies in the ACP countries, making it easy for the EU to dump its produce there.

Not so long ago the ACP countries were being asked to open their markets through an 80% liberalisation rather than 96%, but as the deadline approaches and pressure increases on the ACP countries to conclude a deal if they want to maintain their access to EU markets, the European Commission's demands have become ever more extreme. "80% liberalisation was already absurdly large," says Irrgang, "but now it turns out that the European Commission is demanding still more. This looks a great deal like straightforward recolonisation." The SP Member of Parliament is demanding that the Minister of Development Cooperation and the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs do all in their power to prevent these agreements from reaching fruition.

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