"Free trade as a means of poverty eradication”? The leading question of the Bonn Conference of 21 October 2005 addressed the following crucial issue in the current EU ACP trade negotiations within the framework of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA): Does the CPA’s trade component in its envisaged form of "Economic Partnership Agreements” (EPAs) effectively foster the CPA’s central objective, that of reducing and eventually eradicating poverty, "…consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy”? (Article 1) In short, will EPAs work for the poor?
The answers to this question as recorded in the present documentation reflect the positions and interests of the three main stakeholders present at the Conference. While the German government views EPAs as the relatively best WTO-compatible trade arrangement that will lead to sustainable development if the existing flexibility inherent in WTO Article XXIV is strategically explored, official ACP voices remain sceptical with regard to EPAs as potential tools for development. ACP countries are increasingly frustrated by the dichotomy between the development rhetoric of officials and the offensive interests pursued by DG Trade, which is heading the negotiations. The ACP side is equally dissatisfied the EU position in the current negotiations, which fails to adequately address the serious supply-side constraints of structurally ACP countries. This is expressed in the Declaration of the ACP Council of Ministers 21-22 June 2005 in Brussels, in which voice their "grave concern that the negotiations have not proceeded in a satisfactory manner having failed to start addressing most issues of interest and concern to the ACP regions, in particular development dimension and regional integration priorities”.
The representatives of civil society from Africa and Europe present in Bonn focused the potentially devastating effects of EPAs their present form on vulnerable and largely uncompetitive ACP economies as compared with the economic giant EU and called economic and political alternatives to EPAs their current planning that do justice to development needs of ACP countries.
In support of the StopEPA campaign - www.stopepa.de
The report summarizes discussions at an international expert meeting jointly organized by the German StopEPA Campaign coordination, the Ecumenical Service for Advocacy Work on Southern Africa, the Coordination Southern Africa, the Network Africa Germany, terre des hommes and World Economy, Ecology & Development in Bonn, Germany on October 2005.
Berlin, January 2006, 56 pages
The report is available as PDF download.