European Union’s threat on EPA is departure from spirit of partnership – Group
The West African Civil Society Platform on the Cotonou Agreement (POSCAO) on Tuesday described the European Union’s (EU) recent threat to Cotonou as a departure from the spirit of partnership.
It said the scenario posed by the Economic Commission had a very tenuous legal basis, and wondered if the Commission itself was aware or had since been made aware.
This came to light at a media briefing organized by POSCAO in collaboration with Economic Justice Network (EJN) of Ghana and the African Trade Network Secretariat (ATN) in Accra to outline the negative component in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.
Recently, the EU threatened to withdraw the current equivalent access that exports from ECOWAS enjoy in the EU markets by 2014 unless ECOWAS had completed and ratified an EPA by that date.
Mr Kyekye Tanoh, a spokesperson for the group said there was nothing new in that aggressive and the bullying stance of the EU process because the last conference of African Ministers of State held in Kigali, Rwanda, also registered its condemnation of the EU’s approach and methods in EPA negotiations.
“It is in this context that we welcome the statements by Ghana’s Minister of Trade as well as the ECOWAS Director of Trade to the effect that member-states will continue to work to reverse the multiple conflicting trade regimes that the EU is imposing in West Africa through EPA process, and that genuine developmental outcomes rather than arbitrary deadlines are the appropriate and legitimate reference point for ECOWAS in the EPA negotiations,” he said.
On the EPA negotiation, he mentioned market access offer, EU Agricultural subsidy, Non-Execution clause, EPA Development Programme, ECOWAS Solidarity Fund, and Programming Alternatives to EPA as current contentious issues that African countries needed to examine critically.
Mr Tanoh said they had realized that despite ECOWAS concessions on its market access offer from 60 per cent in 2009, 69.69 per cent in 2010 to 70 per cent in 2011 the EU remained intransigent in its demands of 80 per cent plus market opening commensurate with what it extracted from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana respectively in their bilateral interim EPAs.
He said there had never been any convincing technical basis for the increasing ECOWAS Market Access Offer from its 2009 basis because research conducted by POSCAO revealed that any market liberalisation for EU imports under the EPA should be restricted to goods under group A and B goods only.
“Liberalisations of goods currently classified as group C and due for liberalization after 10 years would worsen evenness between economies of West African member states, reduce economic growth and increase poverty throughout the sub-region,” he added.
Mr Tanoh therefore called on ECOWAS and member governments to call their negotiation partner (EU) to order, adding that “far from having as a genuine partner, the EU had acted aggressively and divisively in the EPAs”.
He said the current trend in the world economy would devastate African countries in an unprecedented manner, “unless we decisively seize the opportunity to re-shape our relations, and re-position ourselves in the global economy on the basis of a genuine and substantive orientation on integration on integrated regional production and developmental transformation.