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ECOWAS President Gbeho calls for political leadership in EPA negotiations

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Victor Gbeho - ECOWAS President

Trade Ministers and experts have been advised to seek political leadership from their respective Heads of State to ensure a successful and complete Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiation with the European Union.

Mr James Victor Gbeho, President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, gave the advice on Wednesday at the on-going Meeting of Ministerial Monitoring Committee on the EPA in Accra.

He expressed worry that the negotiations had lasted far too long but stressed the need for “rethinking, creativity and innovativeness” to an early end of the negotiations.

Mr Gbeho said failure to seek political guidance on the negotiations could divide the ranks of Member States adding, “If they failed, poverty would continue to be the condition and lot of our people… It’s our duty and solemn pledge to lift our countrymen and women to lift themselves out of poverty… and to encourage trade.”

He said he had been given the assurance that negotiations were on-going to resolve outstanding areas that included West Africa Market Access offer, the EPA development programme and rules of origin.

Mr Gbeho said at the political level, Heads of States, had consistently expressed serious concerns about the recurring divergent views particularly on the ECOWAS Community Levies, UEMOA Community Solidarity Levies outside the scope of the definition of customs duties in the tariff dismantling process.

He added that they had persistently appealed to the EU to ensure mobilisation of the requisite optimum resources to finance the EPA Development Programme.

Mr Gbeho said, “This is based on the firm commitment to make the programme the major sustaining instrument in the development dimension of the EPA. It is their firm belief that such flexibilities are consistent with and will contribute to the strengthening of our regional integration ambition.”

He expressed the hope that the position taken by the Heads of States would give the experts a clear “road map and mandate on the way forward on the political issues of the EPAs.”

Ms Hanna Tetteh, Minister of Trade and Industry, reiterated the fact that non-conclusion of the EPA with the EU could damage the path to regional integration in the West African Sub-region adding, consensus needed to be built to avoid a situation where Member States agreed on different trade regimes with the EU.

She said there was a sense of urgency in concluding the negotiations stressing that regional integration was critical for growth.

Ms Tetteh called for strong commitment to make ECOWAS succeed in its mandate adding, “an Economic Union, not a Political Union,” was crucial to lift the citizenry of Member States out of poverty.

She called for the removal of trade barriers and factors that beleaguered successful commerce between Member States.

Ms Tetteh was hopeful the meeting would be significant in reaching an accord which would end once and for all time the EPA negotiation.

Source: GNA

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