The Guardian, London, 24 May 2005
Mandelson warns on lobbyists’ zeal
Campaigners on behalf of the developing world risk harming poor countries if they align themselves with forces opposed to change, Europe’s trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said last night.
In a robust defence of Europe’s attempt to negotiate new economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with nations in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, Mr Mandelson warned NGOs against action that would "oppose innovation, frustrate change and undermine the case for reform".
Mr Mandelson told the European parliament’s trade committee that, despite the criticism from lobby groups, EPAs were "emphatically not about opening markets to our own exports: it is about opening European, as well as crucial regional markets, to developing countries and enabling them to take advantage of these opportunities".
The rules of the World Trade Organisation meant Europe had to ask for something in re turn for opening its market to poor nations, but Mr Mandelson insisted there would be "no equality in these obligations".
NGOs criticised the European commission last week after a leaked letter from senior trade bureaucrat Peter Carl indicated opposition in Brussels to the UK government’s call for EPAs to make less onerous demands on developing countries.
Mr Mandelson said: "NGOs, as campaigning organisations, are always in need of issues to mobilise public opinion - and EPAs are currently high on the list. Of course, they are entitled - and right - to pose challenging and hard questions about the negotiations ...
"But I want to offer a word of caution to NGOs ... EPAs aim to be pro-development, pro-reform instruments. Be careful your campaigning zeal does not lead you to oppose innovation, frustrate change and undermine the case for reform in developing countries because, in this case, you will not be helping these countries and the progressive ministers in their governments."