EU trade deal 'could damage African forests'

Posted: 21 October 2008

African countries will be locked into an economic model based on the export of raw materials that could have a devastating impact on forests and wildlife, if new EU trade deals shaped by former trade commissioner Peter Mandelson are signed - according to a new report from Friends of the Earth.

As Baroness Ashton prepares to take on the role of Trade Commissioner, Friends of the Earth is urging a re-think of Europe's new EconomicPartnership Agreements (EPAs) pioneered by her predecessor Peter Mandelson.

The environmental group says the agreements will put forests at risk by forcing African countries to lift rules that limit the export of logs and other unprocessed raw materials - preventing them from using these laws to protect forests, wildlife and domestic industries.

Friends of the Earth's trade campaigner Sarah-Jayne Clifton said: "Economic Partnership Agreements will deepen the economic crisis facedby African countries and put some of the world's richest forests, their wildlife and the people who depend on them at risk.

"The EU needs a new trade strategy which takes into account the needs of poor countries and allows them to protect their economies andenvironment from the worst excesses of the market."

The EU is also using EPAs to resurrect investment liberalisation policies previously rejected by developing countries at WTO talks, a move which would allow European corporations increased access to African countries' forests, fisheries, agriculture and other natural resources such as oil and gas. FOE says the new trade deals will also require governments to lift tariffs on European imports, threatening many of Africa's infant industries causing job losses, worsening poverty and increasing pressure on natural resources.

Friends of the Earth believes EPAs should be scrapped and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries allowed to implement their ownpolicies to protect the environment, promote development and reduce poverty.

Note: Economic Partnership Agreements are the trade and investment deals currently being negotiated between the EU and 76 countries in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific region (ACP). The EU claims that the deals aim to help ACP countries to develop. But the FOE report argues that the EU's approach to the negotiations is driven by the agenda set out in its trade strategy 'Global Europe - competing in the world' which highlights securing and maintaining access to markets and primary raw materials as a key priority for trade negotiations with other countries.The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review,modelled on the Stern Review of climate change, recently pointed out that the global economy is losing more money from forest loss than from the global banking crisis. The EU commissioned study, estimatedthat once the value of the various services provided by forests are taken into account (including the absorption of carbon dioxide), the annual cost of forest loss is between $2 trillion and $5 trillion, See more here