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Thursday, 03 October 2013

EPA: West Africa ministers meet to revive negotiations

Ministers  of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) discussed the latest proposals to revive stalled negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) during  an extraordinary session in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, on Monday 30 September.
The enlarged meeting of the Council of Ministers, comprising ministers responsible for finance and trade  as well as ministers responsible for regional integration in member states, also talked about the regional five-band Common External Tariff (CET), which was approved by ministers of finance in March 2013, and the Monetary Cooperation Programme for the establishment of an ECOWAS single currency.
The meeting was called to prepare the next extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government of the region scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal, on the 25 October 2013, and which will take decisions on the remaining issues. The outcome of the summit should enable the region to resume the ten-year-old EPA negotiations for a trade regime between West Africa and Europe and compatible with the Word Trade Organization (WTO).

EPAs negotiations stalled over several points of disagreement:

  • The first challenge is the size and duration of market access offer:  the EU is insisting on a minimum 80% liberalization while ECOWAS has shifted its position to 75% from an initial 60% as a gesture of good faith.
  • There is also the litigious issue of the Most Favoured Nation clause, an EU request to enjoy trade preferences offered by West Africa to other trading partners.
  • An important concern is the size and funding for the EPAs Development Programme.  West Africa is asking for some 16 billion Euros in new injection of funds to overcome the cost of adjustment to the forthcoming trade regime, while EU however, insists that existing funding under its phased Development window is sufficient.
  • West Africa is then pleading for a phased tariff dismantling process and the exclusion of some products in order to protect its emerging industrial sector from being wiped off by imports from the more competitive European industries.

Both sides missed opportunities in 2007 and 2009 to conclude the Agreement, part of a World Trade Organization-compliant trade regime that will replace previous trade arrangements between them. As the negotiations dragged on, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana have signed interim agreements with the EU leaving the region with four trade regimes that could stifle the region’s effort to create a common market. Europe is the main trading partner of West Africa’s, taking in 33.3% of its exports, mainly agricultural products, while accounting for 32.7% of the region’s imports mainly vehicles, parts, machinery and capital goods.

Source: Afrique Jet

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