EU May Help Mineral Exporters from Eastern Congo

    31 October, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

    Western governments want to cut links between the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the area's mineral exports. Both the United States and the European Union have acted to tighten control of mineral imports to avoid fueling the conflict in eastern Congo.

    The United States Congress passed the Dodd Frank Act in 2010. The law deals mainly with financial rules, but it also includes a special requirement for America listed companies. It says buyers of tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold need to show they have not supported conflict in Africa's Great Lakes area.

    Now, the European Union is also writing a bill to prevent deals that help private armies in the eastern Congo.

    A delegation from the European parliament has been visiting Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo to see how the proposed law would affect those countries.

    Judith Sargentini is leading the delegation. She says the aim of the European law is to help break the link between the minerals trade and armed conflict.

    She suggests the law will require EU companies buying minerals to prove they were mined without supporting the conflict in the Congo.

    "We cannot just have the U.S. work on the issue, where we are the bigger trading countries with Africa, and ignore this. It will influence European companies that want to trade on the U.S. market, but besides that, more importantly, Europe has a responsibility towards a lot of countries that are actually even former colonies," says Sargentini.

    She says the bill is not a reaction to an increase in Chinese imports of these minerals by companies that are not concerned about the Dodd Frank Act.

    "But I would say that European communication on trade and raw materials of course is completely influenced by the fear that Europe has, that China will buy out everything, and we don't have anything in the future anymore," says Sargentini.

    Judith Sargentini says the American law reduced trade and jobs. She notes that the proposed law will not stop imports from eastern Congo. She says some imports will continue, even if the minerals were mined under what she called "bad circumstances."

    Critics say the Dodd Frank Act stopped trade and led to the illegal transport of minerals through nearby countries. Ms Sargentini agrees, but says the planned law should have a different effect.

    She says the EU trade commissioner wants to increase trade with the Congo. She says the law will reward businesses that make an effort to trade minerals fairly and openly.

    Some Congolese experts say they think the Dodd Frank Act has helped to cut the flow of money to militia leaders.

    In eastern Congo, workers at the Enough Project say people have changed behaviors because of it. But the conflict minerals part of the law has yet to be enforced.

    And that's the Economics Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Mario Ritter.