A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Friday, 7 October 2011

EU Trade Deal Causes Friction

Freetown: home of the ubiquitous bike-taxi

Here's something to cheer you up. You know the stereotype: man, balding, beer belly, tweed jacket, speaks with a posh accent and smokes a pipe? The charicature of the single market opponent according to pro-EU orthodoxy. Now it can be refuted utterly! For the Sierra Leone Motor Bike Riders Association has taken to protest in the only way they know how. Not likely to be mistaken for Colonel Blimps with caviar and a country house any time soon, they have been tearing up dust ahead of their president's proposed signing of the European Partnership Agreement. They can't exactly be accused of being Little Englanders, and they're doing their best to offset all the EU's reductions in C02 emmissions from now until 2050. What's not to love?

Well, the serious side, of course: they fear that tax revenue would fall drastically were the agreement to be signed, and are also afraid of the country's industry being held to ransom or exploited by increasingly harsh demands and unfair competition. By signing the EPA, the government would pit the small-scale industries of Sierra Leone against the multinational companies of the EU, although many of Sierra Leone's products are not up to international standards and exporting is not a major focus on their economy. Their companies would simply be unable to compete with major European firms. Civil society oganisations have already stressed the consequences of this in an article carried by Awareness Times, one of the sub-Saharan country's most popular newspapers.

Unbeknownst to the vast bulk of the European populace, the EU is also currently using standard gunboat diplomacy to strong-arm Namibia and eighteen other countries into signing a newly-revised version of the Market Access Regulation - the Commission device for the regulation of trade between the EU, Africa, the Carribean, and the Pacific. The choice is simple: accept the EU's new terms, or lose your duty and quota-free access to the single market. As the European Union represents one hundred million euros of foreign trade, sixty-four per cent of the total export market for the small African nation, many of the bikers are urging caution on the part of government, lest the same happen to their country when its agreement also comes up for revision.

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