Boniface Mabanza of the Ecumenical Service on Southern Africa warned of the “catastrophic impacts” that the Economic Partnership Agreements were having.
Photo: Ralf Häußler

10.02.2017

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Free trade and the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreements were criticised at the 5th Ecumenical Strategy Congress of the Churches in Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The participants addressed the issue of whether and how trade really could promote development and called for binding regulations on compliance with human rights in the economic sector.

“The economy must not be an end in itself. It has to serve life,” said Boniface Mabanza of the Ecumenical Service on Southern Africa (KASA) at the 5th Ecumenical Strategy Congress of the Churches in Stuttgart, Germany, in late January. His presentation centred on a critique of the current forms of trade. Free trade, he stressed, had never worked but was merely destructive. This had also been revealed during the past 30 years of structural adaptation programmes and 20 years of the World Trade Organization (WTO). “These programmes fall far short of what is needed, and they ignore the reality of the local markets. Many producers in Africa are having difficulty producing what people consume,” Mobanza maintained. Priority should be given to agriculture and protecting local producers’ access to the local markets, he said, adding that “trade must not be allowed to determine everything”.

Democratically controlled trade instead of free trade

Mabanza also sharply criticised the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) on free trade with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

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