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AFRICA : EU pressure resisted


African governments are concerned about the impact of the EU's Economic Partnership Agreements, controversial trade opening pacts being negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. In December 2007, 35 ACP countries, including 19 African countries, signed up to interim EPAs with the EU Commission as a prelude to signing full EPAs in 2008.

At a conference in Ghana on 23 April, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, Mr. R. Davies, said EPAs would not deliver the benefits they claimed to offer ACP countries, adding, "The devil is in the details of the agreements." Davies argued that while EPAs contain provisions that require ACP countries to liberalise tariffs on 80 per cent of goods received from Europe, their exports to the European markets would still be subjected to tariffs.

Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika said at a press conference earlier in April that he would not allow Malawi to sign up to an EPA on current terms because it would not benefit Malawians. He was critical of the EU's strategy of using aid as a lever to cajole developing countries into signing EPAs.

He said, "This is imperialism by the EU which we must fight against because the EDF funding has nothing to do with EPA conditionalities. They are doing this in order to punish those who are not signing their agreements." Mutharika asked, "If the agreement is so good, why do they have to force people to sign?"