West African Leaders Back Epa Agreement With EU

IN a move welcomed by European Commissioner for trade Karel De Gucht, the heads of 16 West African states on Sunday decided to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

Namibia on the other hand has refused to sign the EPA with the EU, saying the terms are not favorable to Namibia. Southern African countries including Namibia are expected to come up with a final agreement on the EPA with the EU later this year.

“I am a firm believer in expanding our cooperation with Africa, a thriving continent full of opportunities. A partnership of equals with Africa has been one of my key priorities”, said Joseacute Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission in a statement issued by the EU Delegation in Namibia yesterday.

The statement said the ‘agreement fully takes into account the differences in the level of development between the two regions.’

The statement said the EU will provide West African firms with conditions that are more aantageous than those that apply to European exports to Africa.

In the negotiations, the EU committed itself to open its market to all West African products as soon as the agreement enters into force. In exchange, the EU accepted a partial and gradual opening of the West African market. Only if and when West Africa will be ready to grant more far-reaching concessions to the Europe’s main competitors, will the EU be able to claim those same improvements, the statement said.

Under the terms of the agreement, West Africa will continue to be able to shield its sensitive agricultural products from European competition either by keeping tariffs in place or, when necessary, by imposing safeguard measures. To support local agricultural production, the EU has also agreed not to subsidise any of its agricultural exports to West Africa.

West Africa accounts for 40% of total trade between the EU and all the African Caribbean Pacific regions.

European annual exports are worth approximately euro30 billion. West African exports towards the EU account for euro42 billion.

The EU Economic Partnership Agreements stem from the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000 between the EU and countries of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP). The regional negotiations with West Africa started in October 2003 and were concluded in February 2014.

Source : The Namibian