The chairmen of the council of ministers and the ECOWAS Commission say they are “very pleased” with the economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between West Africa and the European Union (EU) after more than 11 years of intense negotiations, a statement issued by the institution says.
In their speeches at the opening of the 13th extraordinary session of ECOWAS Council of ministers on Wednesday in Yamoussoukro, which will essentially focus on the issue, the Ivorian Senior minister, Charles Koffi Diby, and the chairman of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo, praised the partnership and described it as very advantageous for the West African sub-region.
Ouedraogo said the Yamoussoukro meeting should enable ECOWAS to make a “decisive choice” for the region on economic partnership with the European Union, on the basis of a report made by the ministerial monitoring committee (CMS) of the agreement.
“The results that will be presented are based on the new dynamics which our heads of State and governments willingly paid on the process at the end of their extraordinary summit held on 25 October 2013 in the Senegalese capital, Dakar,” said Mr Ouedraogo.
During that summit, the mandate was given to the chairmen of the ECOWAS and WEAMU Commissions to negotiate the agreement on behalf of the region, under the supervision and the support from Senegalese president Macky Sall, which enabled them to take huge steps and reach the draft agreement that was then submitted to the CMS, which met on 17 February this year in Dakar.
The EPAs are trade agreements from the Lomé Convention in 1975, then replaced by the Cotonou agreement in 2000 aimed at developing free trade between Europe and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
After insisting on the complex approaches developed over the past years, as well inside the region as within European partners, Mr Ouedraogo said “here we meet bearing the draft agreement which made all the technical steps and which is waiting only for final decisions, those of political decision-makers at different levels,” the Council of ministers and the Conference of heads of State.
In his opening speech, Mr Diby, who is also the Ivorian minister of Foreign Affairs and chairman of the ECOWAS Council of ministers, stressed the importance of that one-day meeting, which bears particularly interest in that it offers the opportunity to “bring out the salient new crucial perspectives for the well-being of our populations and the competitiveness of our companies at a time when our partnership with EU is taking decisive turn”.
He highlighted the huge gains which the EPA offered particularly the offer related to the access to West African markets of 75% of liberalisation, the alignment of that offer on the ECOWAS common foreign tariff, which comes into force in January 2015, the EU engagement to back the economic partnership agreements projects (PAPED) and the adoption of the rules of origin more favourable for exporters.
The Ivorian senior minister also hailed “the sustained leadership of our presidents in the management of different reforms, as well as in the resolution of the Malian and Guinea-Bissau crisis which today offer the ECOWAS space in an environment of peace, security and stability”.
However, despite the huge progress made over the past few years, several challenges remained to satisfy the needs of the present and future generations, added Mr Diby, alluding to the threats represented by maritime piracy, organised crime and terrorism.
In addition to the examination of the CMS meeting, the ministers will look at and adopt the report from the judicial council of the Community. They will also examine the final report from the meeting held by the security ministers on the biometric identity card and the abolition of the residence permit.
The precedes the 44th ordinary session of the Conference of heads of State and government, to be held on 28-29 March in the Ivorian political and administrative capital.