UK and Irish AWEPA Sections on EU trade policies with Africa

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UK and Irish AWEPA Sections on EU trade policies with Africa

AWEPA Newsletter

The critical issue of bilateral trade between Europe and African countries has been high on the agendas of members of the Irish and UK AWEPA Sections this month.

As part of his ongoing lobbying efforts to ensure EU trade policies do not harm African markets in sensitive industries, AWEPA Governing Council member Hon. Denis Naughten issued a press statement urging the Irish and European Parliaments to ensure flexibility within the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements, two of which were ratified by the Irish Parliament in November 2015.

Hon. Naughten warned that EU-wide trade agreements will cause chaos and instability throughout Africa forcing a further wave of migration, which has already led to a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.

In his view, “[a]s currently structured these agreements benefit major multinational food corporations and if carried through will devastate African farmers, destroy their local markets and lead to long-term food insecurity, unemployment and conflict – the main drivers of migration from Africa.”

Hon. Naughten therefore called on the Irish Government to deal with the migration issue in a comprehensive way by ensuring debate, review and reform of the Economic Partnership Agreements.

Other members of the AWEPA Section in the Irish Parliament have also been active in advocating for stricter monitoring of the Economic Partnership Agreements.

The members, who include Hon. Seán Crowe and the Head of Section, Hon. Maureen O’Sullivan, joined other MPs from across the Irish political spectrum in calling for active oversight of the European Commission, saying it must implement the deals “sensitively and flexibly” to avoid the destruction of local food markets.

They highlighted the dangers of non-tariff barriers as effective EU barriers to trade, and the removal of import controls, which means that sensitive agricultural markets could be left unprotected.

Hon. Crowe stated that “if Article 34 of the West African agreement is rigidly applied, there is nothing to prevent EU poultry and dairy products flooding into countries in far greater volumes than they already are.”

Hon. O’Sullivan also expressed her concerns that the safeguards may not be sufficiently stringent, concluding that “much more active oversight is needed” and asking “how serious are we about helping Africa to feed itself and lift itself out of poverty?”
Also on the topic of bilateral trade between the UK and African countries, Lord David Chidgey, AWEPA Governing Council Member and Political Coordinator for AWEPA’s Development Effectiveness Programme, spoke at a Debate in the House of Lords on 16 November 2015.

Lord Chidgey argued that the UK should be using trade to ensure a healthy agro-business sector across Africa and highlighted the importance of encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.

“SMEs are the companies with the flexibility and the ideas for developing world-beating products. They are critical to our economic growth, but often without the financial resources to pursue African markets, develop products and support their customer base.”

He also called on the UK Government to “pledge to recognise fully the development needs of African countries in the agro-food sector and [ensure] that, within the UK’s compass, no sub-Saharan African Government will be obliged to implement trade policy measures that undermine their national agro-food sector strategies” and to “insist that the EU’s legally binding commitment to policy coherence development, will be fully taken into account in the current revision of the EU’s trade policy, recognising the need to place the right to development at its centre, in its implementation for sub-Saharan Africa”.