The European Union should completely open its market to products from Africa in order to promote development and stem migration flows, German Development Minister Gerd Müller said Wednesday.
"Open the market for all African goods," he told Die Welt newspaper in an interview.
Agricultural products from Africa must be able to enter the EU without tariffs and quotas in order to provide work for millions of people on the continent, Müller said.
The EU currently has separate trade agreements with African countries or regional economic blocs. In addition to tariffs and quotas, agricultural products face a hurdle being exported due to the EU's strict sanitary and phytosanitary standards.
Müller also suggested that as part of an agreement with the EU, African countries should take back migrants who entered the bloc without proper approval. In return, the EU should open up avenues for Africans to come to the EU for legal employment.
Only around 1,000 out of 3.5 million German companies are active in Africa, Müller said, highlighting the massive potential in the continent of 1.2 billion people. On the other hand, China, Russia and Turkey have aggressively entered the Africa market.
Support from coalition, farmers
Müller, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), received support for his ideas from the Social Democrats (SPD).
SPD agriculture spokesperson Bernd Westphal told the daily Berliner Zeitung on Thursday that opening the EU's agriculture markets would improve employment prospects in Africa and reduce migration pressures.
The German Farmers Association also supported the idea of duty- and quota-free African agriculture exports to the EU. At the same time, the association's general secretary, Bernhard Krüsken, said processed and value-added agriculture products should be encouraged because they provide more employment and wealth creation.
EU Africa Commissioner
Müller also called for a new EU Africa commissioner position to be created to coordinate and expand policy towards the continent.
In addition, at the EU level more money should be spent implementing the bloc's Africa policy, he said.
cw/sms (AFP, dpa)