Ecowas finally gets EU to compromise on EPA deal

After 10 years of tough negotiations, negotiators of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the West-African region and the European Union may have reached a compromise at the technical level in the West Africa-EU EPA negotiations. Indeed, the compromise, according to information gathered by The Guardian, would require African Ministers of Trade, particularly those within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, to deliberate on the new agreements reached on the partnership deal. Findings by The Guardian showed that the agreement reached by the senior officials would have to be officially sealed by the Chief negotiators and then endorsed at the ECOWAS Head of States Summit at the end of February.

According to the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), compromises were reportedly reached between European Commission and ECOWAS negotiators on a range of issues that had held up the negotiations. Some of the agreements reached include, more limited product coverage of trade in goods tariff liberalisation commitments (75 per cent of all trade over 25 years rather than the EU’s preferred option of 80 per cent over 15 years); an acceptance of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, but with some exceptions; the absence of a “non- execution clause”, but the inclusion of a reference to the provisions in the Cotonou Agreement that deal with non-execution of commitments on human rights, democracy and the rule of law; financing of the EPA Development Programme (also known by its francophone acronym PAPED). Although the financing of the development programme falls short of the amount requested by the West African region for EPA-related adjustments, it includes a “best endeavour” commitment from the EU to find a solution to the financing gap between commitments made and West African funding requirements.

On agricultural subsidies, ICTSD reported that “each party will ensure the transparency of its policies and domestic support measures” and that the EU has made a commitment to report to West Africa the nature, extent and legal basis of measures being implemented. The agreement also formalises the EU’s commitment not to provide export refunds on agro-food exports to Africa. With the proposal, the ECDPM maintained that the agreement allows all parties to “claim victory”. However, while the latest round of technical negotiations appears to have resolved a number of the headline issues, it does not appear to have addressed the issue of reconciling EPA-level policy commitments with national policy practices.

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Edition 51March 2014

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