KENYA: Anglican bishop backs pressure on EU to change trade position

October 4, 2006

Kenyan Bishop Gideon Ireri, who co-ordinates the justice and peace department for the Anglican Church of Kenya, says the European Union should change its position on free-trade negotiations with developing countries, a demand made by civil society groups in east and southern Africa.

"I support the civil society in opposing EPAs [Economic Planning Agreements]. It is akin to a debt burden where poor countries continue to grow poorer," Ireri told Ecumenical News International from Nyeri in northern Kenya in a telephone interview.

He spoke after trade activists globally observed Stop Economic Partnership Agreements Day at the end of September with African churches saying the agreements risked sinking the world's poorest countries further into poverty.

The first official EPA talks between the EU and countries in east and southern Africa opened in Mombasa, Kenya, on September 28.

Non-governmental organizations such as the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD), EcoNews and Oxfam, said in a September 26 joint press conference that Europe was failing to put development at the heart of these trade agreements.

"We are calling for fair trade agreements which recognize the differences between two countries," Eva Odette, the African co-ordinator for Oxfam, told the media.

"The process is really lop-sided," said Valerie Gnide Traore, the Africa program manager for ACORD. "It is unacceptable for the EU to be pushing so hard for free-trade deals with Africa when the consequences will be so disastrous to development and human rights."

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