Mac Lochlainn criticises controversial EPAs and lack of debate
Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn criticised the European Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with West Africa and the Caribbean during an Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, with Minister of State of State for Trade Promotion, Seán Sherlock.
The Donegal North-East TD stated Sinn Féin’s opposition to them and highlighted that these EPAs were not getting full Oireachtas scrutiny.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“These two EPAs are bilateral investment treaties on free trade with 16 West African States and 15 Caribbean.
“They take place outside of the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and outside of the WTO’s consensus-based model the EU is in a far more powerful position compared to the these blocs of developing countries.
“During the negotiations, the EU also went much further than WTO requirements on liberalisation, by including services, investment and procurement alongside goods. It include far more than just reduction in trade tariffs, including negative consequences for workers, farmers and the poor on both sides.
“While we strongly support increased trade between Ireland and Africa, and the EU and Africa, this trade should be fair and mutually beneficial.
“CONCORD, a European NGO Confederation for relief and development, has stated that it regrets that the EU, the largest economic zone in the world, is trying to obtain disproportionate commercial concessions from one of the poorest regions in the world. Sinn Féin shares their concern and opposition.
“You cannot overstate just how big the difference in the levels of development is between the EU and West Africa, and the EU should not be using its economic power to undermine and stagnate development in West Africa.
“These EPAs, by constraining the space developing countries have to make policy and to use different tools for the development of certain economic sectors, are therefore incoherent with the development of these countries, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Europe’s own development commitments.
“I am also concerned that these EPAs have not received full scrutiny by the Oireachtas and I formally requested that the Minister ensure that there is significant time set aside in the Dáil and Seanad to ensure that these EPAs, which affected the lives of millions of people, can be debated and voted on.”