Bad Day For EU International Development in Strasbourg

25 March 2009
SNP Member of the European Parliament Mr Alyn Smith has today (Wednesday) voiced his frustration at a series of votes in the Parliament in Strasbourg which approved a series of trade agreements between the EU and the developing world which he fears will force liberalisation upon a developing world ill-equipped to cope with the EU's companies and multinationals.

Both SNP MEPs voted against the agreements on the basis that concerns over provisions on international development, aid and fair trade were not sufficiently robust, and that last minute verbal concessions from Trade Commissioner Baroness Ashton can be easily ignored as the agreements come to be implemented.

Speaking after the marathon voting session, Smith said:

"I want to see not just trade agreements with the developing world, but fair trade agreements, and I'm not convinced we managed that today. At a time when the EU's economy is in a mess because of our own policies, to export them via these agreements is just plain wrong headed, and we should have shelved these agreements until the global community has caught its breath.

"I fear that these agreements will come to be a missed opportunity, and in a pretty indecent haste to get them through before June when the Commission's mandate expires it is clear that fair trade and development concerns fell right down the Commission's agenda.

"Things are moving so fast in international circles, now was not the time to put these agreements into place, not least when I have seen for myself meeting Zambian, Ethiopian and Africa Union politicians that there is real concern in the developing world that opening their markets to EU multinationals will not in fact benefit them and could do their economies real harm.

"Nobody would argue for a second that trade is not, long term, more advantageous to the developing world than aid, it has to be done right, and the balance of these agreements is in my view to much to the EU's benefit. I do welcome Commissioner Ashton's reassuring comments, but I've seen enough things go through this Parliament to know that it is what is written down in the document that counts and all else is hot air and sentiment, however well meant. In a couple of cases, like the agreement with Côte d'Ivoire there is not even a functioning national government to conclude the agreement with.

"I'm not sure the Parliament, or the arguments for fair trade, had a good day today."

The Agreements voted through today were:

EC-Cariforum States Economic Partnership Agreement

EC-Côte d'Ivoire stepping stone Economic Partnership Agreement

EC-Ghana Economic Partnership Agreement

EC-Pacific States Interim Partnership Agreement

EC-SADC EPA States Interim Economic Partnership Agreement

EC-Eastern and Southern African States Economic Partnership Agreement

EC-EAC Partner States Economic Partnership Agreement

EC-Central Africa stepping-stone Economic Partnership Agreement

Economic Partnership Agreement between the EC and Cariforum

Proposal for a Council decision concluding the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the CARIFORUM States, on the other part

Stepping-stone Agreement towards an Economic Partnership Agreement between the EC and Côte d'Ivoire

Proposal for a Council decision concluding the stepping stone Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and Côte d'Ivoire, of the other part