Europe's new unfair trade deals are in danger of reversing progress to make poverty history for poorest nations. CAFOD yesterday urged the UK Government to take urgent action to stop Europe pushing unfair trade deals on Africa and other developing countries. With world trade talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) suspended in July, the European Union (EU) is negotiating a new set of trade deals - called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) - with Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries. These deals ask some of the world's poorest nations to sign up to harder hitting rules that risk putting 750 million people's livelihoods at risk. In their present form, the agreements could result in the widespread devastation of local industries and farming communities and a massive fall in revenue that developing countries rely on for health care, education and other essential services Last year, the UK Government pledged to do all it could to make poverty history and make trade work for the poor. In spring 2005, the UK Government called for a fresh start to Europe's new trade talks with Africa stating that poor countries should not be forced to open their markets before they are ready. With negotiations approaching a critical period, CAFOD, together with the Trade Justice Movement, (TJM) is calling on the UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling to put his weight behind growing calls from African countries for the European Union to change its approach. Matt Griffith, CAFOD's trade policy analyst said: "The UK Government can once again show leadership and deliver on its promise to make trade work for development. Having a position that is more progressive than other European countries on EPAs will mean nothing if other countries across Europe are not brought on board to confront the European Commission so it drops its harmful demands in these talks." CAFOD is calling on the UK Government to stand by its promises on trade and poverty by using its full influence to: - Stop African, Caribbean and Pacific countries from being forced to liberalise their economies and allowing them to protect their poorest people. - Work with poor countries to develop alternative deals that will help bring about trade justice. Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, acknowledged to CAFOD in July that the UK needed to do more with other European countries to bring about a pro-development outcome. In recent months the British public has begun writing to Alistair Darling in their tens of thousands urging the UK Government to not make poverty in poor countries worse and take urgent action to stop these new trade deals, which threaten to undermine the promises of more aid and debt cancellation which the UK helped deliver last year.
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