West Africa and the European Union will resume their suspended Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations for the creation of a free trade area with a four-day senior officials’ meeting in Dakar, Senegal which is ongoing.
The negotiations were suspended in 2012 following divergences mainly over market access offer and the EPA Development Programme (EPADP), a dedicated funding programme to enable West Africa cope with the cost of adjustment to the impending trade regime.
Initially, West Africa had offered to open 60 per cent of its market over 25 years. It later revised this position to 70 per cent over the same period citing the protection of the region’s fragile industrial base from cheaper goods from the EU.
On the other hand, the EU has maintained its original position of an 80 per cent market opening over 15 years.
West Africa, comprising the 15 ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania, are also asking for 15 billion Euros in new funds for the EPADP, while the EU insists that the programme should be funded from existing bilateral and multilateral contributions.
The resumption of the negotiations followed the directive by the ECOWAS extraordinary summit in Dakar last October calling for flexibility in the process.