Africa: churches want more time to discuss controversial trade pact

 East African churches are calling for an extension of the December 31 deadline for negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union (EU) and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP). Church leaders want this extension in order to address the issues and concerns about the EPAs. The leaders said this during a consultative meeting on EPAs held last Tuesday and Wednesday in Nairobi. The meeting was organised by Building East African Community Network (BEACON) in collaboration with All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC). It was opened by Bishop Mvume Dandala, Secretary General AACC. Mr Arthur Shoo, also of AACC, was the facilitator. Participants came from the Association of Members Episcopal Conferences in East Africa (AMECEA), BEACON, the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT), Missionaries of Africa, National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Norwegian Church Aid, Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) and Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC). The leaders urged their governments to ensure that EPAs are well negotiated as an instrument of development and not exploitation, adding that governments should consider existing alternatives. The participants tabled strategies which the churches intend to use in campaigning against the EPAs as proposed. It was stressed that the churches in each country should contact their president about the matter. The leaders said that the EPAs negotiations have not been effectively inclusive as expected and called on the governments to open the tabled proposals to public for scrutiny before signing. The leaders also expressed fear that the EPAs, if signed as they are proposed, will endanger the livelihoods in East Africa, food security and national sovereignty, and reduce government revenue through the reduction or removal of tariffs on imports from the EU. The trade pacts will also undermine industrialization and consolidation of the region,s market. They will deepen the negative effects of Structural Adjustment Programmes, worsening poverty, unemployment and insecurity. Odd Evden, East Africa director for Norwegian Church Aid, said: "We, as the Church, need to develop a diaconal service to the poor so that they have access to health, education and good governance. We should also assist the government to be a good government for the people." Source: CISA