The undersigned organizations would like to express their serious concern with regard to Mr Wallie Roux, internationally renowned economic analyst with MEATCO Namibia, who has currently been suspended and faces a disciplinary hearing (with the possible result of his dismissal) for publishing articles critical of the negotiations with the European Union (EU) over the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
We would like to stress that Mr Roux’s analyses (and pertinent worries) on EPAs are shared by many African and European researchers and are adopted by a fair number of social movements in Africa and other parts of the world who are also raising their voices against the anticipated domination of their countries by transnational corporations.
Currently, most African countries are involved in negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union as well as negotiations for global free trade within the World Trade Organization (WTO). Both these processes will have far-reaching implications for African countries. Free trade will not only affect businesses, it will have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of workers, small-scale farmers and the poor in general.
The shift of emphasis from multilateral negotiations towards bilateral negotiations such as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) means that industrial nations can now put even more pressure on developing countries.
Hundreds of thousands of small-scale African dairy farmers have already been threatened by cheaper imports of milk powder and other dairy products from the EU.
The EU is, for example, providing huge subsidies to dairy products which are exported to Tanzania. Small-scale dairy producers cannot compete with these dumping practices and have been forced out of business. Similarly, small-scale farmers in Namibia and Botswana are threatened by imported beef from the EU being dumped on their markets.
So-called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union and ACP countries would further aggravate this situation, since they aim at opening up markets under the principle of reciprocity and would create Free Trade Areas between some of the world’s richest countries and some of the poorest. Further destruction of farmers’ livelihoods and an increased food insecurity are thus to be expected in such an unfair relationship, with devastating effects for African countries, where agriculture is still the mainstay of the economy with up to 80 percent of the population depending on farming.
Nowadays even some European member states are starting to caution on the development impact of the EPAs now that the European Commission is rushing the EPAs process with unrealistic time frames, using their divide-and-rule negotiating tactic to push through their own trade and investment agenda.
Mr Wally Roux is one of the few trade experts in Namibia who can argue the case for developing countries and has the experience and analytic skills to carefully weigh up and balance sectoral and overall national interests. Moreover, in the framework of its Non-State Actors Dialogue approach, the EU itself explicitly welcomes the involvement and engagement of civic organizations, researchers and individual persons including the critical voices.
In the light of the above, and in the light of the inalienable constitutional right of freedom of expression, we would therefore like to call upon Meatco to reconsider the suspension of its member of staff, Mr Wallie Roux.
Coalition of The Flemish North South Movement in Belgium