EU ‘neglecting its own commitment to development’ according to South East’s MEP

11 April 2009

The European Parliament has adopted (1) several reports on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) - free trade deals between the EU and countries in African, Caribbean and Pacific regions. The agreement with ‘Cariforum' (a number of Caribbean states) is a fully-fledged EPA, while other reports - including on the Ivory Coast - represent stepping stones to full agreements in future.

UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas, member of the European Parliament international trade committee, commented:
"In its rush for new trade agreements, the EU has neglected its own professed commitment to development. New Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton assured Parliament there would be changes in Commission policy on Economic Partnership Agreements, but this is yet to be seen in the deals on the table.

The UK's respected Overseas Development Institute rates the Cariforum agreement as the least development-friendly of the EPAs, with very few opt-outs and safeguard provisions.

Parliamentarians, trade unions, civil society and academics in the Caribbean have protested in vain against the deal's conditions. Although there were a number of critical voices in the debate in the European Parliament, when it came down to voting the Greens were almost alone in opposing the proposal. As the first deal to be concluded, it sets a poor example for those to follow.

The EU is also not learning its lessons on tax havens. Around half of the Cariforum countries are recognised tax havens, yet this legally-binding agreement provides for full liberalisation of financial services, which in turn facilitates the set-up of trusts and cross-border movement of a whole range of speculative "over-the-counter" products.

This leaves the EU exposed while it lacks proper supervision and regulation of tax havens across its own territory.
The Parliament also voted on an interim EPA with Ivory Coast, a country that is currently plagued by internal conflict and without a legitimate government. Given these circumstances, it is simply the wrong time to conclude an international agreement with long-lasting consequences."

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