The EU's trade agreement must be fair

When the EU signs trade agreements with developing countries, the EU's own interests often come first. The agreements benefit large and resourceful companies and countries, while the goods of poor countries lose value. Now the EU must begin to stand up for fair cooperation where development and social growth are rewarded, writes MEP Jytte Guteland (s).

Trade is an important part of fighting poverty and of development. Free trade opens up new markets and provides opportunities for people and countries to export goods to new parts of the world, which leads to economic growth. But trade must be based on fair conditions.

The agreements that the EU concludes with countries on, among other places, the African continent must take into account the countries' different degree of development and the EU must show flexibility and sensitivity in the negotiation process. Stressing out agreements is counterproductive.

Has met with loud criticism
For more than ten years, the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has been negotiating and concluding with the so-called ACP countries, countries located in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. In their structure and formulation, these agreements have encountered loud criticism, not least from civil society organizations that work with development issues in the countries concerned.

Criticism of the EPAs is based on the fact that the EU's own interests are considered to be valued higher than is best for the ACP countries that have concluded the trade agreements that the EPA constitutes and that the liberalization required is too rapid. The fact that liberalization must take place quickly may mean that sensitive sectors, which would need long-term and planned liberalization, cannot be protected.

Domestic goods can lose value
Although the purpose behind the demand for the liberalization of the market is that it would increase the growth of these countries and increase the pace of development, it risks weakening the value of the domestically produced goods. The EU can, through the new trade agreements, sell goods to these countries in a more favorable way and this could erode the value of what is produced by the countries themselves.

Both the Social Democrats and the Social Democratic Party group in the European Parliament share the criticism of the design of the EPA agreements, where ACP countries are disadvantaged by unfair trade conditions that promote large and already resourceful countries and companies.

The fact that the value of raw materials and later processed goods, produced by ACP countries, decreases in value not only hampers domestic development but also puts the countries in a clearer position of dependence on the EU than before.

Trade agreements must be fair
We Social Democrats believe that trade agreements must first and foremost be characterized by justice. Development considerations must therefore guide the international trade system so that even poor countries can benefit from the welfare gains of globalization. The existence of trade agreements between the EU and external actors is in itself a favorable co-operation, but self-interest must never take precedence over economic justice in the co-operation. All EU free trade agreements must have a development perspective.

The basis for EPAs should be development, partnership and regional integration and must result in long-term and development-friendly trade agreements. The EU must be prepared to make more and more extensive commitments than the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The EU is today a strong economic force in the world and has strong relations with many countries around the world. That is why it is important that the EU in particular also stands up for fair co-operation where development and social growth are rewarded.

Jytte Guteland, Social Democrat MEP

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