A meeting of West Africa’s Ministers of Finance and Trade opened in Dakar, Senegal, Monday to consider proposals for concluding the protracted negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), PANA reported.
The meeting followed an agreement on the outstanding issues, such as the creation of a free trade area of West Africa and Europe as a successor Agreement to the previous trade regimes between them and which should be compliant with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
PANA quotes the ECOWAS Commission as saying the proposals to be examined by the Ministers emanated from the 6 Feb. 2014 meeting of the Chief egotiators of the two parties in Brussels, where they endorsed the compromise reached during the 24 Jan. 2014 meeting of their senior officials held also in the Senegalese capital towards resolving their divergences in order to conclude the negotiations.
These relate to the issues of the scope of liberalisation and tariff dismantling calendar of market access, the EPA Development Programme (EPADP) and the texts relating to the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, cooperation in agriculture and food security, EU’s Customs Union relationship with Turkey, rules of origin and the non-execution clause.
Following the Dakar meeting of senior officials, both parties agreed on a market access offer of 75 per cent liberalisation over a 20-year transition period and based on a phased tariff dismantling schedule that will ultimately result in the substantial liberalisation between them.
On the EPADP for which West Africa had asked for an initial 16 billion Euros to enable it address its infrastructure deficit ahead of the agreement, both parties agreed on the priority needs valued at 6.5 billion Euros in three tranches of five years each and centred on trade, industry, agriculture, infrastructure, energy and capacity building.
The EU, its member states and the European Investment Bank agreed to find a way to match the expressed needs with funding.
At their Dakar meeting, the Ministers will consider the outcome of the Chief Negotiators’ reports and make recommendations to the regional Council of Ministers for their Decision and recommendation to the Summit of the Heads of State and Government for its decision on the EPA negotiations.
PANA recalls that late January, West Africa and the EU resumed their suspended EPA negotiations for the creation of a free trade area with a four-day senior officials’ meeting in Dakar.
According to the ECOWAS Commission, the resumption of the negotiations followed the directive by the ECOWAS extraordinary summit in Dakar in October 2013 calling for flexibility in the process.
The summit also directed West Africa’s chief negotiators to expeditiously resume negotiations with their European partners with a view to concluding a regional agreement as soon as possible.
The negotiations were suspended in 2012 following divergences mainly over market access offer and the EPA Development Programme (EPADP).