Unions call for Africa/Europe Economic Partnership Agreements to be changed

The ITUC, its African Regional Organisation and the European Trade Union Confederation have called for trade agreements designed to govern trade relations between Europe and Africa, known as “Economic Partnership Agreements” (EPAs), to be replaced with fair trading arrangements. EPAs, which do not guarantee workers’ rights and were developed without consultation with unions, threaten to curtail African countries’ ability to industrialise and diversify their economies.

The EU has negotiated them in a way which is arbitrary and disregards regional integration processes in Africa. Trade union analysis also points to the likelihood that African women workers will be disproportionately affected by implementation of EPAs.

“We support trade between Europe and Africa. In fact, the EU has a generous market access scheme in place that benefits the majority of the African continent. Thirty-three of the 47 Least Developed Countries are in Africa, and the EU is already doing the right thing by granting access to products from these countries. As long as these countries remain extremely poor, they need solidarity and improved workers’ rights, not reciprocal obligations which risk their potential to develop economically,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

A joint statement by ITUC-Africa, the ETUC and the ITUC calls on African governments to develop rules for a foreign investment, such as performance requirements that ensure the employment of local workers in decent work conditions, and guarantees that value accrued in Africa is re-invested Africa. Investment policy coordination with rules would ensure that exploitative and speculative ventures are rejected, and that foreign investment is long term and promotes sustainable development.