27 September 2007


I'm coming back to this african and european trade imbroglio which is seeming continuosly bleak for the africans,due to the vehemence of their european counterparts to allow africa to have it's merited share in world trade.This perplexes me a lot and we'll soon see them coming to give"aids" and "loans" and "charity" and what have you.I think we should be all pissed up with such hypocrisy!Come and see them pretending they want to make poverty history!!! Read on and leave a comment:
SPAIN: Rock Stars Collect 600,000 Signatures for Fair Trade with Africa
By Tito Drago.

MADRID, Sep 25 (IPS) - Several popular Spanish rock groups helped collect 600,000 signatures and delivered them to the government Tuesday in support of an international campaign calling for the Spanish government to modify its trade policy towards Africa and eliminate restrictions on imports from that region.

Singers Miguel Bosé and Shuarma, members of the Dover rock band, and Ariana Arpa, the head of Intermón Oxfam -- Oxfam International’s Spanish affiliate -- were received in the seat of government where they presented a statement titled: "100 Days: Trade Negotiations Threaten Europe’s Commitment to Africa".

Because Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, they were met by the government’s top spokesman, José Moraleda, and cabinet chief José Enrique Serrano.

The majority of the signatures came from people attending the concerts of Bosé, Shuarma, Dover, Amaral, a pop/rock duo, and the La Oreja de Van Gogh pop/rock band this year as part of Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign (known as "Comercio con Justicia" in Spain).

The statement urges Zapatero’s socialist government to reconsider its position with respect to the negotiations between the European Union and 78 former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) on the Cotonou Agreement that was signed in 2000 in the capital of Benin and expires on Dec. 31. (Cuba is the 79th member, but it joined after the Agreement was adopted).

The Cotonou Agreement establishes trade conditions between the ACP and the EU that are not overly favourable to developing nations.

But the European Commission (the EU executive) now wants ACP countries to sign market-opening deals known as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with it by the end of this year.

Arpa told IPS that in the entire history of Europe, there have never been more unequal trade negotiations than the ones currently underway, "in which the EU countries are negotiating as equals with a region that has the highest poverty rates in the world."

She added that "Spain is defending the most hard-line position…which runs counter to the achievement of a coherent development policy for poor countries."

"Not one European politician would last a single day in their post if they tried to apply in their own countries the draconian deregulation that they are attempting to impose on the economies of the poorest countries on the planet," she said.

The document presented by Intermón Oxfam says that if the trade liberalisation that the EU is pressing for wins out in the negotiations, the ACP countries would have to eliminate most of their import tariffs on farm products, "while the EU dedicates about 50 billion euros (70 billion dollars) a year to subsidising its agricultural production and exports."

Carlos Galián, who coordinated the Intermón Oxfam report, said "the inflexibility of the Spanish government’s position is surprising, given that this country’s trade with the ACP is very insignificant."

Spain’s exports to the ACP countries represent a mere 1.91 percent of the country’s total exports, and its sales to the 78 ACP countries are equivalent to what it exports to the Netherlands alone.

Arpa said the European Commission, "with Spain’s support," is threatening to impose conditions on the ACP that would lead to one billion euros (1.4 billion dollars) in annual losses for West Africa alone.

In other ACP regions the situation is similar. One example of what that means, said Arpa, is what would happen in Namibia if the EU gets its way in the negotiations. "In the first year alone, that country would lose some 45 million euros (63 million dollars), equivalent to nearly one-third of its annual health budget."

Another illustration is Kenya, where the dairy sector would be hit so hard that 650,000 families that depend on livestock raising would see their incomes drastically reduced, and around 400,000 direct jobs would be lost.

"The future of 750 million people living in poverty depends partly on the EU and the ACP reaching an agreement that puts trade at the service of development, and the solution is not to impose a system that could trigger an economic crisis in Africa, starting on Jan. 1, 2008," she said.

Bosé told IPS that "a right that is not contained in any constitution, but which is clear and real, must be upheld: doing what is fair, and if we're talking about justice, then we have to make trade fair."

The world-renowned singer acknowledged that the Spanish government dedicates a significant percentage of its budget to development aid, a proportion that has grown under the current administration. "But its position is not consistent; it's as if we were throwing that money into the garbage if the country’s stance on trade is not modified," he argued.

That is why, he said, "we, the citizens, those who pay the taxes that feed the government budget, are demanding a position in foreign trade that is neither counterproductive nor negative to the development of the countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean."

"There are 100 days left to do that," before the Cotonou Agreement expires, he said, adding that in the negotiations, Spain should play a positive role in leading the EU towards a more progressive position.

One of the most harshly criticised stances taken by Spain is its protectionist tariffs that protect bananas from its own Canary Islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa.

Intermón Oxfam is calling for the elimination of that protection, to make it possible for producers from countries of the South to compete on an equal footing.

But sources with Spain’s Ministry of Industry and Trade told IPS that the initiatives it is discussing do not include support for free trade in that sector. (END/2007)

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