ECOWAS Seeks Commitment on Development
(PANA)--Rounding off a one-day meeting, ministers of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) responsible for coordinating ongoing negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) have urged regional negotiators to secure unequivocal commitment from the European Commission and EU member states to contribute to the funding of a development programme to ameliorate the effects of the agreement on West Africa.
The Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) said such a contribution to the EPA Development Programme (EPADP) should be ‘adequate and accessible’ beyond the commitment already made in the European Development Fund (EDF). They stressed the need for a financing plan to be presented by the EU prior to the signing of the agreement. The MMC, which comprises ECOWAS ministers of trade and finance, also called for the ‘rapid mobilisation of resources required to implement priority projects’ that will improve the competitiveness of the regional economy as it opens its markets to EU goods.
On the issue of the liberalisation of market access for European goods, the ministers reiterated their position of July 2007 that only between 60 and 70 per cent of the regional economy should be affected over a transition period of 25 to 30 years, preceded by a 5 to 7-year period of moratorium. They also urged the ECOWAS Commission to ensure linkages between the market access and the commitment expected from the European Commission on the financing of the development package.
The committee also reviewed the legal text for the agreement already prepared by regional experts and directed the Commission to elaborate a programme with the accompanying road map for the preparation of the specific commitments and requests to be submitted to our European partner. It said this should reflect the priorities of member states, and the Commission should also prepare a regional legal assistance framework in addition to existing text, subject to consultation with member states.
It said a fifth band for a Common External Tariff (CET) that has been agreed on in the region should be re-negotiated with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the leadership of the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions, which should also develop a regional methodology to determine the 5th band products and their re-categorisation. Moreover, it called for the finalisation of complementary measures and safeguards that will enable ECOWAS member states to mitigate the effects of tax reforms that will accompany the implementation of the agreement, adding that this should be adapted to the realities of the region.
The ministers urged member states to implement sectoral policies, particularly for agricultural produce, and ensure coherence between the ongoing work on the CET and EPA market access. A three-day gathering of experts whose recommendations were considered by the ministers preceded the meeting.
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