Trade unions representing 71 million workers in Europe and Africa have slammed the EU over its trade partnerships with Africa.
In a joint statement the European Trade Unions Confederation and the International Trade Union Confederation-Africa have expressed “grave concern” regarding the negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and regional groupings in Africa including SACU.
The unions have collectively called for in-depth changes to both the content and the guiding principles of EPAs to ensure that they promote economic growth and sustainable development.
In particular, the statement calls out the risk to agro-industries in Africa. One only has to look at the impacts of the EU dumping of frozen chicken parts and how it has wiped out the poultry industry in Ghana, Cameroon and now threatens South Africa to understand the serious concerns of workers represented by these organizations.
According to the joint statement “the EPAs currently under negotiation and those that have been signed pose significant risks to sustainable development, stable employment, labour standards and public services as well as democracy in African countries”.
The statement further notes: “No country has industrialised without using tariffs to nurture and develop …there is high risk of negative consequences on agro-food production in African countries, as the EPAs are to decrease tariffs on agricultural imports, and therefore protection, over time.”
The Unions call on the EU and African groupings to stop the negotiations, withdraw from and reform signed agreements based on certain principles including:
Agricultural products from the EU should be completely excluded from liberalisation because the European agricultural sector is subsidised. Tariffs of 20 per cent are sometimes too low to effectively protect a sensitive market in African countries.
African governments must have the ability to vary tariffs to ensure their food security. Special care should be taken not to further worsen Africa’s food deficits, and particular attention should be given to the condition of life and work of rural workers.
Countries must retain the ability to vary tariffs and other protections to allow African countries to develop. This must include the ability to exclude sectors where women and vulnerable groups are particularly likely to be disadvantaged by liberalisation.
The African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) is a pan-African trade union organisation with 16 million declared members and 101 affiliated trade union centres in 51 African countries.
The ETUC is the voice of workers and represents 45 million members from 90 trade union organisations in 38 European countries, plus 10 European Trade Union Federations.