The language contained in agreements being negotiated by the EU through the WTO with their southern counterparts often deliberately diguises real political goals, obscuring the negative economic implications for those countries of the neoliberal agenda.
Harold Liversage, the Land Tenure Adviser for the International Fund for Agricultural Development argues that responsible investment in agriculture is possible if voluntary guidelines are backed up by an empowered civil society.
In recent years Africa has experienced waves of new investment, particularly in mining, energy and agriculture, and has seen elevated commodity exports. These flows are tantamount to a new scramble, creating wealth for foreign direct investors, some local entrepreneurs and a growing comprador class. Resources are typically exploited without raising the living standards of the people and at significant environmental cost. On the ground this has engendered significant resistance. The new scramble is a modification of traditional imperialist relationships which Africa experienced with former occupying colonial powers. But how do we understand the differences between the old and new scrambles? Who ultimately holds the power?
As land is grabbed and earmarked in Africa for supposed development, there are nearly always implications for the water nearby, for local people's land and water rights and environmental sustainability.
The major causes of the economic and social crises are now being even more blatantly promoted by the EU - both within the multilateral WTO negotiations and bilateral and bi-regional FTA/EPA negotiations - as the fundamental solutions.
The challenges facing policy makers, analysts and activists dedicated to formulating environmentally sound, social and economically sound trade policies demand that we redefine the role and purpose of trade altogether.