19 Jun 2006

Concern raised about Europe's Economic Partnership Agreements with developing countries

6:31 pm on 19 June 2006

Pacific NGOs say there has to be far greater consultation before countries in the region enter into Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union.

The EPAs are to govern the relationships with the EU and its aid recipients in the African Caribbean and Pacific group of countries.

The civil society groups have issued a call for governments to forge a closer partnership with them ahead of the EPAs being signed off at the end of next year.

Barrie Coates, the executive director of Oxfam New Zealand says the EU had presented the EPAs as being mostly about aid but he says they are much more to do with opening up markets.

"This raises a lot of concern because the Pacific countries haven't generally had a chance to do enough research, an impact assessment about what this will mean, there hasn't been consultation with civil society in any sort of meaningful way and there hasn't been public enducation, not in fact of parliaments."

The head of the EU's head of delegation in Suva, Roberto Ridolfi, says elements such as the removal of tariffs, are a requirement of the World Trade Organisation, and have little relevance given that Europe sells very little into the Pacific.