Open space: EPAs (economic partnership agreement)

The fundamental principle for EPAs is a free market. This may work for European countries as they are at the same level of development, economical infrastructure is in place. However it does not work for the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) countries. It is not an even playing ground; odds are heavily stacked against ACPs not least because of the negotiation process required to trade in the EU (for example intellectual property rights – some countries may not be able to negotiate this). Bilateral trade agreements have a major drawback: they take no account of development needs.

Trade negotiations may seem dull but when it comes to rich countries ripping off poorer countries the fair trade movement can understand this and empathise with this so should be a part of that process. (Mike Gidney).

How far do we see campaigning for long term sustainable change going? Buying fair trade does help of course; but for the long term we need to be campaigning in a more robust and coherent way.

The EU is trying to downgrade the political component and look at the technical negotiations. These do not make headlines though; as you need to fully understand these technical aspects in order to report as a journalist (also it is not very exciting!). EPAs campaign has done a good job of raising the profile but still the ACPs are in a weak negation situation. There is a race between the EU and the US for a market share in China.

‘Engagement v boycott’

This was later summed up in the closing session: ‘from the producers’ perspective, networks are not succeeding as much as they could as they have been sidelined somewhat in political activism; dissipated somewhat as fair trade has gone mainstream. This is a travesty for the 76 countries from the ACP; we must bring this to light. It is treated as a technical issue but it’s not – it will kill people’.

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