07 September 2005

The Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church remind the government of the need to Make Poverty History

It has been nearly two months since the G8 summit at Gleneagles, but the Make Poverty History campaign refuses to be forgotten. In fact, as Britain takes presidency of the European Union, the call for justice is louder than ever.

This morning, representatives from the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church paid a visit to 10 Downing Street to remind the Prime Minister that as the British presidency of the European Union begins, there is a great responsibility to eliminate unfair trade rules in the call for trade justice. The group of representatives included Anthea Cox (Methodist Church Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice), the Revd Martin Turner (Superintendent minister at Westminster Central Hall), Anne Martin (United Reformed Church Commitment for Life Co-ordinator) and the Revd David Downing (Minister at Rectory Road and Claremont United Reformed Churches, London). They presented a letter for the Prime Minister, signed by the Revd David Deeks (General Secretary of the Methodist Church) and the Revd David Cornick (General Secretary of the United Reformed Church), along with a portion of the 2,000 postcards signed by members of both churches.

A letter has also been sent to Peter Mandelson, in Brussels, and both the letters and the postcards urge the government to honour the statements made in March by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the effect that:

· We do not force trade liberalisation on developing countries either in the way we negotiate trade agreements or by making it a condition of our giving aid

· The EU make an upfront offer of complete duty- and quota-free access to each African, Caribbean and Pacific country, with no strings attached

There is a serious concern that Economic Partnership Agreements will force countries to open up their economies in a way that hurts more that it helps, causing further hardship for those in poverty and the churches believe that Britain should use its influence on the world stage in 2005 to address this. Anthea Cox commented that, 'The Make Poverty History Campaign seeks to influence decision makers at several key events during 2005 of which the G8 summit was one. Britain's presidency of the EU provides another significant way in which we can encourage European partners to take the issues seriously and work towards tacking the causes of extreme poverty. The churches as a part of the Make Poverty History Coalition are urging the EU to rethink Economic Partnership Agreements.' Anne Martin added, 'Despite this being a complex issue, it is obvious that the current system is deeply against the interest of the poorest nations.'

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