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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

ECOWAS Heads of State Approve Economic Partnership Agreement with EU

Heads of the 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gave their endorsement of the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between ECOWAS and the EU at their 45th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in July 2014. Having previously failed to reach an agreement in March of this year over concerns from the leadership of Nigeria in particular, negotiators continued working to produce an agreement that could pass muster for all ECOWAS members. The latest version of the EPA contains new consensus on these technical issues related to market access, the proposed EPA Development Program, and on the EPA text itself. Having endorsed the final text of the EPA, the heads of state instructed the officials charged with negotiations to initiate the signing and implementation process.

When concluded, the EU and ECOWAS hope that the EPA will establish a partnership that creates a “virtuous circle” of mutual growth and prosperity. It will accomplish this through joint objectives and institutions, including an implementation committee, council, parliamentary committee, and a forum for input from civil society. Yet obligations under the EPA will remain uneven in favor of the ECOWAS parties, perhaps as a result of the provisions renegotiated since March. The countries of ECOWAS will enjoy full market access in the EU while maintaining their own protections in the form of tariffs or safeguards.

This development in the foreign trade and investment landscape of ECOWAS very likely speaks to the importance of multinational organizations in Africa, as discussed in a previous blog post. As the European Union reportedly conducts similar negotiations with other regional blocs in Africa, the benefits of coordination and reduced transaction costs from working with unified groups of countries could be one explanation for the successful negotiation of this agreement.