Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has urged the European Union to be mindful of the development dimension and show “understanding and demonstrate greater flexibility” in its approach to the ongoing process for the negotiation of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The agreement seeks to create a free trade between regional economic groupings in Africa and Europe.
Dr Chambas, who exchanges views with the United Kingdom Minister for Development, Baroness Shriti Verdana, said an intensive intra-regional consultation process was underway to culminate the adoption of a regional position on the feasibility of the 31st December 2007 deadline for the signing of the agreement.
Though the region has concluded the major tasks indicated in the first phase of the preparatory process, the ECOWAS chief said there were still outstanding challenges that needed to be resolved prior to the signing of the EPA
He cited the strengthening of regional integration process, creation of a region-wide Common External Tariff, harmonisation of tax and investment policies as key challenges confronting the region.
Besides, the economic grouping is worried about market access, treatment of sensitive products, liberalization of services and the absence of support measures through the establishment of an EPA regional funding mechanism.
The fund will serve as a compensatory mechanism for revenue losses for member states, most of which rely on import duty as a major source of government revenue. It will also help the region to address identified constraints, including the upgrading of its infrastructure to enhance the competitiveness of regional industries so that they can benefit from the agreement.
Baroness Verdana expressed United Kingdom’s appreciation of the challenges faced by the region and hoped that they would be resolved quickly for a mutually beneficial agreement.
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