The world trade regime is largely shaped by the interests of rich countries while the concerns of poor countries in their search for development are neglected. Trade should be seen not as an end in itself but as a means to achieve development.
The current imbalances promote unsustainable development with disastrous consequences especially on the lives of women and men in Africa. Trade is a powerful force for economic growth, but while economic growth is important it is not enough for sustainable human development.
Under the trade and development theme EJN will continue to monitor and assess negotiations and agreements at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and their impact on poor people especially in the SADC Region. EJN will also continue its work on the EU ACP Economic Partnership negotiations and interim agreements. Many of the African countries are only considering the importance of market access to the EU; the EU on the other hand is more concerned with the non-goods elements of EPAs, such as investment, competition and services.
The EU has also argued that an investment agreement would help attract much needed foreign direct investment (FDI) into Africa. However, there is little evidence to suggest that investment agreements are likely to promote additional investment flows over and above what the countries are already receiving. Yet if new binding provisions relating to investment, competition and government procurement are adopted under an EPA, this could also risk further limiting countries’ ability to regulate key sectors for development reasons.
Instead of constraining developing countries’ policy space, emphasis should be placed on building up the government’s capacity and regulatory framework in areas of competition policy and government procurement.