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ECOWAS demands EU’s commitment to development fund

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ECOWAS demands EU’s commitment to development fund

By Bassey Udo

16 March 2010

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is urging the European Union (EU) to show real monetary commitment to a proposed development fund for the subregion.

The call, announced in a press release, follows an ECOWAS Ministerial Monitoring Committee held over the weekend in Cotonou, Benin. Negotiations are expected to commence on Wednesday to lay the foundation for a new trade regime, which aims to create a free trade area of the two regions.

Pending issues

Some issues that remain to be resolved related to the Economic Partnership Agreement Development Programme (EPADP) fund are: what each partner will give to the fund, and how it could be accessed.

The experts-level MMC meeting showed how the Partnership Agreement could be integral to West Africa’s integration process. The fund could also boost competitiveness, leading to an economic partnership pact that would help the 16-member ECOWAS take advantage of potentially greater access to European markets.

West Africa wants EU negotiators to make clear the "dedicated source and accessibility" of the fund, according to the press statement.

Monetary support

Heads of state from across the ECOWAS region say they would like notable EU monetary support for the proposed fund before it is approved by the West African bloc.

For their part, the ECOWAS states are expected to finish listing the priorities in their operational plans and projects, in keeping with a framework adopted two weeks ago, which was to be submitted to the ECOWAS Commission latest end of this month.

Also, the ECOWAS Commission was expected to carry on with planned fiscal reforms, among other activities.

ECOWAS asked its negotiators to get fast replies from EU representatives regarding financing of the proposed fund, as well as guidance on how it could be tapped by the ECOWAS member states.

Some other unresolved aspects of the negotiations are a seven-year old 0.5 per cent Community Levy charged by West Africa for imports from outside the region. ECOWAS uses the funds to pay various activities, but the Europeans consider it a trade barrier and want it lifted.

Still, movement has been perceptible in certain core areas, such as issues related to market access and a comprehensive sectoral economic analysis.