The Ministers of Finance and Trade of West Africa have been meeting in the Senegalese capital Dakar to consider proposals for concluding the protracted negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) following an agreement on outstanding issues.A statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Monday in Abuja said that the agreement was for the creation of a free trade area between West Africa and Europe as a successor agreement to the previous trade regimes between them and which should be compliant with the requirements of the World Trade Organization.
According to the statement, the proposals to be examined by the ministers emanated from the 6th February 2014 meeting of chief negotiators of the two parties held in Brussels where they endorsed the compromise reached during the 24th January 2014 conference of their senior officials held in Dakar towards resolving their divergences in order to conclude the negotiations.
It noted that these relate to the issues of the scope of liberalization and tariff dismantling calendar of market access, the EPA Development Programme (EPADP) and the texts relating to the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, cooperation in agriculture and food security, EU's Customs Union relationship with Turkey, rules of origin and the non-execution clause.
Following the Dakar meeting of senior officials, both parties agreed on a market access offer of 75 percent liberalization over a 20-year transition period and based on a phased tariff dismantling schedule that will ultimately result in the substantial liberalization between them.
On the EPADP for which West Africa had asked for an initial ÂéČ16 billion to enable it address its infrastructure deficit ahead of the agreement, both parties agreed on the priority needs valued at ÂéČ6.5 billion in three tranches of five years each and centred on trade, industry, agriculture, infrastructure, energy and capacity building.
The EU, its Member States and the European Investment Bank, agreed to find a way to match the expressed needs with funding.