Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - The ECOWAS Council of Ministers has requested the Heads of State and Government of the regional bloc to issue fresh guidelines that will help break the deadlock in the negotiations between the region and the European Union (EU) for a free trade area of West Africa and the EU.
According to an ECOWAS Commission statement made available to PANA here, the council took the decision at its meeting which rounded off in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Wednesday.
The council said such guidelines would help the region continue with negotiations in order to reach a regional agreement to guide trade relations between West Africa and the EU.
At its last meeting in Accra in November, West Africa’s Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) had agreed to refer the divergent issues that have stalled the negotiations to the Council, which constituted the MMC to coordinate the negotiations.
The negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between West Africa and the EU was scheduled to have been concluded in 2007 but has stalled over some issues, mainly EU's response to West Africa’s demand for an EPA Development Programme, a US$16-billion fund to enable the region cope with the cost of implementing the EPA, the timetable for the liberalisation of West Africa’s market, the status of the ECOWAS community levy and its UEMOA equivalent as well as the applicability of the Most Favoured Nation status.
The EU is insisting that the EPAD be funded from existing funds, contrary to West Africa's position that this be funded from fresh funds and the community levy.
In other to avoid losing the trade preferences they enjoyed into the EU market, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana were pressured by the EU into entering into interim agreements that are expected to lapse with a regional pact.
-0- PANA SEG 23Dec2011