Since the suspension of the WTO negotiations for the conclusion of the "Doha Development Round" in July 2006 attention has shifted to bilateral and regional trade agreements. The EU is concentrating on the current "Economic Partnership Agreements” (EPAs) with 78 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP Group). The declared goal of these negotiations are six regional WTO-compatible Free Trade Agreements with an ambitious agenda to overcome existing trade barriers and to foster development.
The negotiations, to be concluded by the end of 2007, have entered their decisive phase as concrete draft texts are presently being discussed in most of the six regional groupings. At the same time critical voices in ACP states pointing out the serious risks of EPAs in their present form are growing louder by the day. Untimely reciprocal liberalisation of market access, services, investments and public procurement is said to be undermining development goals and targets in the ACP states. Therefore the German Government holding the EU presidency in the first half of 2007 will be challenged in a special way to influence the shaping of EPAs so that they live up to the stated claim of being instruments of development.
In parallel to the presently initiated official review process of the state of negotiations this conference undertakes a critical review of the envisaged EPAs from a civil society perspective. Together with international guests from Africa and the EU we intend making a critical assessment to which degree EPAs correspond to the development principles enshrined in the Cotonou framework and to the development needs of mostly structurally weak and vulnerable ACP states.
The conference focuses on three particular problem areas of EPAs.
- Are EPAs endangering food sovereignty and rural development of mostly agrarian oriented ACP states?
- Are EPAs in their current form undermining autonomous initiatives of regional integration?
- What effects are to be expected from a broad liberalisation agenda including the so called "new issues” of investments, competition and public procurement?
These are the main issues we as representatives of German civil society working on EPAs are going to confront and critically evaluate during the Bonn Conference together with invited guest from Africa and the EU, political decision makers and members of academic institutions. T hese are the main issues that civil society representatives from the ACP and Europe together with political decision makers and academics are going to confront and critically evaluate
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