Secretary-General of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa, Rev. Tolbert Thomas Jallah, Jr., has expressed great disappointment over the fast-track conclusion of the EPA deal between ECOWAS and the European Union (EU).
In a statement made available to PANA here Thursday, Rev. Jallah, a well-known anti-EPA campaigner, also criticised the ”secrecy” of the agreed text, and stressed the need for the document to be made public.
At a recent meeting with EU Ambassador to Togo Nicolas Berlanga-Martinez, Rev. Jallah reiterated the non-compliance position of the churches in West Africa to the ”weak performance” of the regional bloc ECOWAS Trade Negotiators in reaching a sealed
deal with the EU.
He called for transparency and fairness in the negotiations through national level consultations with respective national governments, faith and religious leaders, and civil society organisations.
“(The) ECOWAS-EU EPA is not in the true spirit of partnership since undue pressure was exerted by the European Union on the ECOWAS Commission and its member countries with a unilateral, arbitrary and egoistic ultimatum for the signing of the EPAs until October 2014,” Rev. Jallah told the EU Head of Delegation.
“This is unfair and outside the framework of the Cotonou Agreement,” he added.
For his part, Ambassador Berlinga-Martinez denied that the EU had pressured the ECOWAS Commission, since the agreement has being under negotiation for over a decade.
He said that the negotiation was long overdue, and must be concluded, noting that the EPAs will enhance good trade relations in the ECOWAS sub-region and promote deeper integration among member states.
However, Rev. Jallah rejected the views of Ambassador Berlinga-Martinez and emphasised that the EPAs would rather seal in the eternal resource curse on ECOWAS economies, therefore hampering the establishment of processing industries for African raw materials.
He said West Africans would lose their domestic markets, resulting into exploitation, unemployment and underemployment, while small scale farmers and workers in the region would suffer under price regimes dominated by the industrialised nations.
Rev. Jallah urged the ECOWAS Commission to resist the temptation and greed of the EU Commission and preserve the raw materials for the citizens of the sub-region/.
“Don’t undermine our small scale farmers, and don’t open up our infant economies and industries through trade liberalisation in favor of industrialised nations,” he warned. “Our people must have market access, regulate their market, and solve their developmental problems.”
PANA recalls that the EU and West Africa have reached a compromise on EPA, following over 10 years of negotiations.
The trade pact is meant to provide 16 West African countries with long-term access to the European market, without being subjected to tariffs or quotas.
The 16 African countries included in the deal are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Mauritania.
According to the European Commission, West African countries account for 40 percent of all trade between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.