ActionAid today urged trade secretary Patricia Hewitt to follow up her new policy on Africa with a pledge that Britain will not press its countries to open their markets in exchange for access to European markets.
This appeal came as Ms Hewitt prepared to announce a decision to soften the UK government’s position on proposed Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union and African nations.
The government and its EU commissioner, Peter Mandelson, face growing pressure to review the plans which, ActionAid warns, put 750 million of the world’s poorest people at risk.
Some 176 MPs have signed an early day motion critical of the proposals.
Ms Hewitt - tomorrow in a written statement to parliament and a speech to trade justice campaigners - will pledge that Britain will not force trade liberalisation on developing countries through trade negotiations or aid conditions.
The announcement follows soon after the Commission for Africa - set up by Tony Blair - called for action on trade, aid and debt in the run-up to the G8 summit of rich nations which Britain will host in July in Scotland.
It will also coincide with a major seminar tomorrow, organised by international development secretary Hilary Benn, which will review the UK’s work to end hunger in Africa.
ActionAid trade policy officer Tom Sharman says: "This is a step in the right direction for trade justice. Hewitt's rethink is big on rhetoric and makes some key changes to current government policy.
"One example is to stop pushing the controversial so-called Singapore issues - investment, competition policy and government procurement - on African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
"But the core problem - demanding ACP countries open up their economies to an arbitrary timescale - is not fully addressed. The government still has much work to do".
According to ActionAid, three million people in Kenya depend on the sugar trade for their income and two million Ghanaians rely on the tomato industry for their earnings.
Cheaper European imports could bring severe cuts in public services, like health and education, as Kenya’s government would lose about £100 million in sugar taxes and Ghana millions of pounds in tomato revenues.