AFRICA’S trade union movement is urging national governments not to sign economic partnership agreements (EPA) with the European Union “as currently structured.”
ITUC-Africa general secretary Kwasi Adu-Amankwah makes clear in an open letter that, notwithstanding superficial concessions offered during negotiations, EPA “remains inimical to the development aspirations of Africa.
“The terms of the agreements will only make it harder for Africa to achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals.
“The agreements seem designed to completely remove whatever leverage remains for Africa to transform its economies,” he says.
Mr Adu-Amankwah notes that Africa’s share of global trade has continued to decline despite enjoying duty-free and quota-free access to EU markets and having carried through sweeping liberalisation in the 1990s in line with instructions from the World Bank and the IMF.
He points out that, while the EU removed tariffs on raw materials from Africa, it raised them on manufactured goods and also subsidised EU exports, enabling them “to outcompete their African counterparts.”
In a damning condemnation of present-day neocolonialism, the African trade union leader declared: “The colonial economic structure set up to export raw materials and import manufactures remains.”
He recognises that structural adjustment programmes imposed on Africa by global financial agencies, “with the active involvement of the European Union,” have “killed off the little industrial capabilities mastered immediately after independence.”
While recognising the potential for trade to be an important instrument in the fight against poverty, Mr Adu-Amankwah insists that free trade between the poorest continent and the world’s most powerful trading bloc does not provide a solution.
He calls for “policy space” for African economies to address constraints to structural transformation, to protect domestic industry and to promote high-value activities in manufacturing and services.
“Signing the EPAs is signing away that space and probably kissing goodbye to all prospects for structural transformation on the continent.”
Mr Adu-Amankwah rails against EU insistence on secrecy veiling meetings and negotiations, warning: “The EPAs represent the latest attempt by Europe to further the underdevelopment of Africa.”
He calls for urgent action to construct “an African agenda of structural transformation that puts development and social justice first.”