Economic Community Of West African States
From Ken Ukaoha, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS)
West African countries agreed on Monday on an 18-month timetable to negotiate and sign a regional economic partnership agreement with Europe by June 2009, top officials said.
Ghana signed an interim trade deal with the European Union on Thursday, joining a rush among poor countries to safeguard exports to the world’s biggest trading bloc after preferential terms expire at the end of the year.
Ivory Coast inked an interim trade accord with the European Union on Friday as the bloc pushes for deals with as many former European colonies as possible before preferential trade terms expire on December 31. The top cocoa producer is the first West African country to sign a bilateral deal, breaking ranks with the region’s ECOWAS economic community.
West Africa is sticking by its demand for an extended World Trade Organisation waiver for trade with Europe, rejecting an EU call for new interim commercial deals by December 31.
The Ghana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on Friday served notice to government that it would avail itself of all legal instruments to stop the signing and/or implementation of either the full Economic Partnership Agreement or the EPA-light.
Nigeria could also lose $680 million annually if the agreements were implemented, according to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria
The European Union has rejected calls by West African states to postpone the end-of-year deadline for concluding a free trade agreement.
India decided on October 16 to extend a line of credit of 250 million USD and 100 million USD worth of agricultural and industrial supplying for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It also agreed to sign within the next six months a bilateral investment promotion and protection treaty with Nigeria.
West Africa will miss a Dec. 31 deadline to sign a new trade partnership with the European Union and hopes to keep its preferential commercial privileges for up to two years while it negotiates, a West African official said.
Amidst controversy, trade liberalisation is fast gaining prominence in Sub-Saharan Africa as the December deadline for the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement draws near. This is attributed partly to the wave of globalisation, regional and bilateral agreements and mainly, pressure from the World Trade Organisation and the European Union.
The EU is doing almost everything possible, both legally and illegally, to get the EPA signed, according to Kwabena Okai Ofosuhene of the Abibimman Foundation in Ghana. “It is very unfortunate and sad that there are key elements within the ECOWAS Commission who are working secretly to enable the EU achieve this.”
The European Commission has approved a total of 44.8 million Euros to support regional integration in West Africa over a period of five years, from 2007 to 2011.
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Group (MANEG), an arm of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has listed the impediments to pro-export growth in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region.
The European Commission is pressing West African governments to negotiate a deal on trade before a WTO waiver on current trade perks expires on December 31, but acknowledged on Thursday a short extension may be needed.
The Federal Government has been called upon to take the lead in driving the Economic Community of West African States-Economic Partnership Agreement (ECOWAS-EPA) negotiations in order to guide the developing region towards effective regional integration and improved trade practices.
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson admitted that if the EPA negotiation does not finish this year, there are options available which he termed as expensive and not so good.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has made it clear that it is looking for partnership and development-centred agreements with the European Union and not one that will stifle and ruin their economies.
The executive members of the Gambia Social Forum have condemned the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that is being negotiated between the European Union and ECOWAS member states. They say that these proposed free trade agreements would exacerbate the current agricultural crisis that farmers already face, increase poverty, and violate human rights.