Fair deals needed for developing countries

Jo raised concerns that development deals are not fair to third-world countries

Jo Swinson has pressed the Government to seek fairer development deals for third-world countries.

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) were provisionally agreed in December between the European Union and 35 developing countries. However, some charities have raised concerns that the deals do not give a fair deal to the developing countries. Jo has called for an independent review of the EPAs to take place before the deals are finalised.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Jo asked International Development Minister Gareth Thomas:

“The Prime Minister has said “poor countries must be allowed the flexibility to decide, plan and sequence their own trade reforms.” However, analysis last week by Oxfam found that the interim Economic Partnership Agreements hastily concluded in December 2007 could mean Africa loses $360m each year from tariff cuts.

“Given this, does the Minister think an independent evaluation of the EPAs should take place, with a view to revisiting problem areas, before the deals are finally signed?”

In his reply, the Minister said:

“The hon. Lady is right to note that some countries have highlighted one or two issues, and we want the Commission to continue to show flexibility in responding to those concerns.”

Commenting after the debate, Jo said:

“From the dozens of letters I have received on this issue, I know how strongly residents in East Dunbartonshire feel about giving a fair deal to developing countries. Fairtrade fortnight showed recently how keen local people are to support farmers and producers in poorer regions of the world.

“Oxfam has raised serious concerns that the recently agreed Economic Partnership Agreements are unfairly weighted against developing countries. I would like to see an independent review of the agreements take place before they are finalised, to give a full assessment of the impact they will have on developing countries.

“Developing countries should not be pushed into deals that damage their fledgling economies and, ultimately, harm their ordinary citizens.”

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