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4th Jul 2022

Protest in Brussels against new EU-Africa trade deals

  • Representatives of the African diaspora gathered in Brussels to protest against the signing of new EU-Africa trade deals (Photo: EUobserver)

Some African countries are still against the new set of trade deals proposed by the EU with a march against the so-called European Partnership Agreements taking place in Brussels on Friday (11 January).

The previous trade regime with African countries expired on 31 December after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) deemed the preferential trade systems illegal.

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The European Partnership Agreements (EPAs) proposed by the EU offer duty-free terms for most African imports on condition that African markets gradually open up to competition.

Brussels says that if the new rules are not put in place, African countries could lose tariff-free access to European markets.

However, at an EU-Africa summit last December, EU attempts to get a deal with the African states on the new trade rules failed with Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade being one of the most severe critics.

He called for the march that took place on Friday in Brussels against the proposals believing they will be detrimental to African economies.

"It was a Senegalese initiative, but people from the whole Western African diaspora have been mobilised" for the march and joined by around 10 NGOs , Eric Somerhausen, responsible for West Africa within Oxfam Solidarity - an NGO strongly opposing the EPAs, told EUobserver.

"Many African countries have not yet signed, there are still many things to negotiate with the European commission in the coming months", he said, adding that "one can of course not refuse the accords, but they need to be improved".

Looking for guarantees

According to Oxfam, some 35 countries from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific (ACP states) have so far initialled so-called interim EPAs, but most are still resisting.

One of the things the protesters hope to obtain is guarantees regarding certain products, particularly agricultural ones, according to Mr Somerhausen.

Primary products – agriculture products plus raw materials of all sorts – constitute the main part of Africa's exports.

If subsidised European agriculture goods enter the African markets, this may be fatal for the continent's economy, according to anti-poverty organisations and African protesters.

The Africans participating in Friday's protest asked the EU not to "transform Africa into a space of total social chaos", a Congolese economy professor, Aime Mianzenza, told journalists.

"If we open the customs border [to EU products], it is obvious that this will be the end of the agriculture sector in our countries. It is not acceptable (…) Africa is not yet ready to face competition", Mr Mianzenza added.

Malick Ndiaye, lecturer in sociology at the University of Dakar in Senegal, said the debate on the EPAs had been "confiscated" by both Brussels' and African "bureaucracies" instead of being carried by the people.

"It is the European people that we have come to meet today, Europeans are with us on this", he said.

Representatives from the French, Belgian, Italian and Spanish African diaspora, as well as from Senegal, were present at the protest.

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