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.
Trade issues have remained mysterious to church members and FOCCISA NCCs. There is very little and even no understanding of the impact of trade relations between SADC member countries with other countries and regions on church members. Ordinary people in the SADC countries are ultimately passive recipients of the impacts of trade.
The Economic Justice Network (EJN) of FOCCISA has been working on trade issues since 2003. As an organisation, we understand that trade affects the lives of all the people in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). All aspects of lives of our people are touched by trade. It is for this reason that we are working towards achieving trade justice.
Over the years, the EJN has been focusing on the European Union (EU) and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (APC) countries Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Other trade focus issues EJN has been working include the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tripartite Free Trade Area or the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). Our focus on this trade issue was driven by an understanding that African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) leaders are realising the importance of trading with each other.
More of our work on this issue focused on agreements for trade negotiations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). These included the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) including the Doha Round of Negotiations. EJN further focuses on China and the European Union (EU) investments and trade relations with Africa. Of late the EJN has been following developments in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Under the Trade Justice Programme 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 is involved and is planning to continue working on trade as part of and in collaboration with the Third World Network – Africa (TWN-A). It is our responsibility as a Christian organisation to relate this important information from trade and industry officials (the state negotiators) to other civil society organisations and to the ordinary people. It is our call as an ecumenical organisation that strives for economic justice to simplify the complex issues so that our NCCs and ordinary people can understand them. In all this, we are continuing with our mission of bring the Christian voice of the disadvantaged groups in SADC countries on issues of trade. Our main mandate is to assist our fellow CSOs and ordinary people to know the relations of trade agreements to their work and lives.
To monitor and influence the implementation of the EPAs as well as to raise awareness on regional, continental and international trade agreements which have direct impact on national and regional policies.