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Monday, 08 April 2013

West Africa holds out over EU trade deal demands

Cape Verde`s Minister of External Relations, Jorge Borges, told Ecowas ministers of Trade and Finance gathered in Praia two weeks ago that negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) should be handled with caution or the region could be overrun by European goods.
EPA’s clauses stipulate that West Africa should open its market by 80 per cent over a 15-year period. This would be reciprocated by its opening of 70 per cent of its market for over 25 years to the sub region. Borges warned of dire consequences if this happened, reminding fellow ministers that no country develops without protecting its markets.
West African civil society groups have been especially vocal against the agreement which they say in its current shape runs counter to the region’s socio-economic development agenda.

The EPAs were designed as a trade pact between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations, aimed at promoting "free trade" through trade development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction. The EU negotiates by regions. The negotiations (started more than ten years ago) with West Africa have been stalled for about a year over - among other things - the opening of  West Africa market, the EPA development Programme(EPADP) and the application of the Most Favoured Nation.
West Africa, which includes the 15 ECOWAS Member Stated and Mauritania, is  insisting that the EU fund the EPADP, a programme to enable it cope with the  consequences of implementing the impending EPA with the injection of 6.5  billion Euro in fresh funds. The EU has rejected this request, offering instead facilities under the European Development Fund (EDF) and sundry resources for funding including  bilateral contributions to West African States.
Two west African countries – Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana initialled bilateral interim EPAs with the EU at the end of 2007.

The European Union has grown increasingly impatient over the delay in striking a deal. Meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the EU Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) drew the line: either the  African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries that have not yet signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) - sign the pact by 1 October 2014, or will lose it preferential access to EU markets.

Source: Africa Review

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