hursday, 26 April 2007, 4:21 pm
Press Release: Oxfam
Oxfam Challenges the EU to Extend Market Access to Pacific in the Absence of an EPA trade deal
For Immediate Release
The European Commission has threatened some of the world's poorest countries, including nations in the Pacific, with lower access to the EU market if they fail to sign new free trade deals known as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by the end of 2007, when their current market access preferences expire.
Yet according to a new report launched today by Oxfam International and Third World Network Africa, there are more options available to African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries short of signing the EPA than the European Commission has suggested. In the event that ACP nations are not ready to sign by the end of the year, the European Union could still provide them with a high level of market access, using the so-called Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)-plus scheme, without breaching World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
"The European Union has been cranking up the pressure in these trade talks and presenting governments, including those in the Pacific, with a stark choice: either sign up to this free trade deal that could have devastating social and economic impacts, or accept less advantageous market access terms overnight that could lead to income losses and economic instability," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.
"This research shows that there is another way. With some improvements Europe could use GSP-plus to continue current levels of market access for ACP countries, even if EPA negotiations are not concluded by the end of the year. It's a matter of political will. The EC is, in fact, obliged to do this under the terms of the Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2001."
The joint report shows that GSP-plus could offer a level of market access very similar to that currently enjoyed, including for key sectors such as horticulture, fisheries and wood. For example, Kenya would have 99.61% duty-free, quota free market access under GSP-plus, compared to 99.63% currently. Mauritius, Papua New Guinea and Ghana would retain exactly the same access. The study predicts that the same would apply in other ACP countries. This enhanced version of GSP could provide developing countries such as Papua New Guinea, which stands to lose considerably when its canned tuna exports to the EU lose their duty-free access, with substantially better preferential access as long as it adheres to a set of international standards in labour rights and environmental protection.
"The EPA's rules will affect the livelihoods and lives of Pacific people, their cultures and their environment for decades to come," said Coates. "The EU could offer the same level of market access, economic stability, and time to negotiate good deals that realise the potential of trade to boost development and reduce poverty. If the EU is serious about helping poor countries, including those in the Pacific, it should open this possibility.
The report recognises that GSP-plus has a number of limitations but that these could be addressed given sufficient political will by all parties. It is important that rules of origin are improved and the scope of coverage is extended. In addition, neither GSP-plus nor EPAs resolve issues for exporters of bananas, sugar, beef, veal or rum currently administered under the EU's Commodity Protocols. The report calls for the EU and ACP to separate discussions on the future of the Protocols from the current EPA negotiations and seek long/term measures to support ACP countries that are highly dependent on commodity exports.
Oxfam Challenges the EU To Extend Acces
I don't think reformist type thinking from oxfam is going to cut it any more in the Pacific. Only grassroots resistance and solidarity against neo liberalism & colonialism will ensure any sort of dignified future for our grandchildrens grandchildren.