Glenys Kinnock, the representative of the Socialist Group in the European parliament, said she is shocked by the lack of consultation with the public among the leadership of the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries on the ongoing economic partnership agreements (APAs)
“There is lack of information in the ACP countries about what has been agreed. And there is a clear concern because the ACP countries are negotiating from a point of weakness,” she said.
Kinnock is a member of the European parliament representing Wales under the British Labour party. She said she is also concerned about the tension which is flaring up within ACP regions as countries do have different views on the EPAs.
EPA is a move aimed at readying the ACP countries for free trade tsunami promoted by the Geneva-based WTO. The WTO is made its intention clear that global free trade will start in 15 years.
Under the EPAs, the developing countries will have access to the European markets on the basis of duty free. Further, the agreement seeks to simplify the trade rules and also promote inter-regional trade among the developing countries. The agreement will ensure that eventually the EU also exports to the developing countries to ensure that there is reciprocity in a bid to comply with the WTO rules.
“The EPAs are meant to be tools for development but what we are seeing is more and more of tensions flaring up between negotiators,” she said.
She said the relations between South Africa and its SADC over the EPAs is worrying and could threaten the long term goal of regional integration. Kinnock, who has been in the SADC region recently, is scheduled to fly to Windhoek early next week after the EU parliament debated Zimbabwe’s political situationÔÇöfor a SADC ministerial meeting.
“What we need to see is coordination between the ACP countries. I am very passionate about the EUÔÇôACP relationship. ACP is a hybrid and we have a historical relationship,” she said.
Her comments were shared by Peter Hill, an advisor to Peter Mandelson, who said South Africa’s position not to initial the EPAs agreement put other regional countries “in a difficult situation.”
“We have moved fast on thatÔÇönegotiations with South AfricaÔÇöwe want them to be involved because we think South Africa’s interests are aligned to that of the region.
“However, there are in a very complicated political situation and I do not think that they will be able to take a decision. And that puts others in a difficult situation,” Hill said.
Meanwhile, SADC negotiators are scheduled to meet with the EU next month to try to roll out a plan that will eventually lead to the signing of the agreement. The Caribbean has already finished with the process and the other remaining region of central Africa, West Africa and East Africa – including Zimbabwe – is already advanced.
Zimbabwe is negotiating under East Africa.