The urgent clarification of import duties applied in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana related to their interim EPAs

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SOL | 18 December 2017

The urgent clarification of import duties applied in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana related to their interim EPAs

by Jacques Berthelot (jacques.berhelot4@wanadoo.fr)

The Mali’s Trade Minister and a Representative of WAEMU I met in Buenos Aires during the WTO Ministerial Conference confirmed that Côte d’Ivoire (CI) and Ghana are applying the ECOWAS CET (Common External Tariff) and not the import duties (IDs) of their interim EPAs (iEPA). But the question remains as to whether, once Nigeria’s refusal to sign the West African EPA (AO) has been definitively confirmed, what IDs CI and Ghana will apply to their imports from the EU. The text that the European Commission (EC) published at the end of 2016, to which I had not paid attention, confirms that it is indeed the ECOWAS CET that CI and Ghana are applying: "Non-liberalized goods in the Interim EPA: Côte d’Ivoire has excluded a number of agricultural products and non-agricultural processed products from liberalization, mainly to protect agricultural markets and sensitive industries, but also to maintain revenues. For example, frozen chicken and other meats, onions, sugar, tobacco, beer, some cements and most textiles are excluded from liberalization, and upon entry into the Ivorian market, these imports will continue to be taxed at the normal rate (the ECOWAS Common External Tariff)" . But what will happen if the regional EPA of West Africa (WA) is never finalized? On the one hand, this will limit the competitiveness losses of the other ECOWAS member States for products, particularly agricultural, excluded from liberalization (taxed at most at 35% and not at 20%), but not obviously the competitiveness losses related to the liberalized products.

However, the liberalization schedules of the two iEPAs are different already between CI and Ghana and the WA EPA: for example the CI’s iEPA will liberalize the import of milk powder as well as of barley and maize already in T3 (September 2019) against in T5 (December 2021) for Ghana. Will these differences be ignored and will we apply to CI and Ghana the liberalization schedule of the WA CET (common external tariff) in the event that the regional EPA will never be finalized?

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source: SOL