West African experts who attended a three-day meeting here have recommended a comprehensive review of the market access offer to the European Union (EU) to break the deadlock between the two parties in the negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for the creation of a free trade area between them
The draft offer, one of the outcomes of the meeting which was called to consider proposals to reinstate the negotiations, would be forwarded to member states for their comments as part of the process of generating a consensus behind a desired offer.
West Africa, which includes ECOWAS member states and Mauritania, initially made a 60-per cent market offer over 25 years for the dismantling of the existing tax regimes against EU’s 80 per cent over 15 years.
However, that has since been adjusted to 70-per cent market offer, even though over same the transition period, as a gesture of flexibility in the negotiations, which have been stalled mainly due to disagreements over the size of the West African market to be open to the EU and the timetable for dismantling the existing tariff, the EPA Development Programme (EPADP) funding to enable the region cope with the cost of adjustment to the EPA, the non-execution
clause and the most favoured nation status.
While West Africa is requesting for the injection of US$9 billion in fresh funds into the EPADP, the EU is offering US$6 billion in funds already committed under the European Development Fund (EDF) as well as existing bilateral and other sources.
In preparation for the resumption of negotiations, the region has also undertaken a series of analyses of the impact of an increased market offer on the economies of its member states based on on customs revenue, external trade, real GDP growth, investments inflows and consumption of households.
In order to mitigate the potential loss of revenue from the EPA based on these simulations, the experts called for the involvement of the private sector and the implementation of a tax reform programme.
The negotiations are being held to establish a World Trade Organization (WTO)-compliant trade regime that will guide trade relations between the EU and the 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries for the next 25 years as a successor arrangement to the previous partnership Conventions.
On the EPADP, the experts urged West African negotiators to obtain a clear indication of the amount of the contribution of the EU to the financing of the first five-year period of the fund prior to the conclusion of EPA negotiations.
The meeting which was called by the ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (French acronym, UEMOA) Commissions to make proposals for resolving the areas of divergence with the EU on the negotiations which were suspended about a year ago.