The October deadline for the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which would improve the Sub-region's exports to the European market, is likely to be missed.
Dr Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, Trade Programme Co-ordinator for Civil Society Organizations in West Africa, who made this known at Sali in Senegal on Wednesday, was however, sure that negotiations would probably continue till January 2010 since both the EU and ECOWAS had not agreed on the percentage of the market they intend to be liberalized.
Dr Dieye was speaking at the opening of a regional workshop organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German based nongovernmental organization.
The workshop, which was on the theme: "Negotiations between EU and ECOWAS: "Where does the West African Press Stand," brought together economic journalists from Ghana, Benin, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria. The Economic Partnership Agreement is a proposed trade agreement by the EU to Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) countries seeking reciprocal trade arrangement with non-tariff barriers, to encourage the liberalization of the various markets. The proposed agreement, which should have been signed by December 2007 was opposed by West African countries with the exception of Ghana and Cote d' Ivoire. Ghana and Cote d' Ivoire pledged commitment to sign the agreement once negotiations are fully completed. The EU proposed June 30 this year as deadline to sign the full EPA; however, ECOWAS did not conform to the agreement, hence the shift to the October deadline.
Dr Dieye said the contending issues between ECOWAS and EU was that West Africa is proposing 60 percent liberalization while Europe recommended 80 percent. "There are still a lot of issues to deal with. I do not see ECOWAS signing the EPA in October," he stressed. Mr Amadou Niang, Senegalese Minister of Commerce, however, expressed optimism that ECOWAS could sign the agreement in October. He admitted that the negotiation process was difficult because there were crucial development issues that West African countries had to deal. Mr Niang said Senegal was committed to ensure that West Africa would benefit if the agreement was signed.
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