EPA Update, GREAT Insights, Volume 3, Issue 3 (March 2014)


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    ECOWAS Heads of States to convene to approve EPA deal, civil society expresses concern  After the deal struck at technical and senior official level last month, West Africa is progressing towards official validation of its EPA at the highest political level in the region. Soon after the deal was struck, Cheikh Hadjibou Soumaré, President of the Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA) Commission, and Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, met with Macky Sall, President of Senegal, to inform him of the compromise reached two days beforehand with the European Union (EU). Sall had been appointed by other West African Heads of States to personally supervise the negotiation process. The press conference held after the meeting was the first public acknowledgement by officials in the region that a deal on the West African EPA had indeed been struck. Soon afterwards, on February 17th, a Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) meeting was convened in Dakar to approve the deal. The MMC is the body in charge of monitoring EPA negotiations in West Africa. The MMC indicated that it would submit the deal as it currently stands to the next ECOWAS Council of Ministers, which should then pass it on to Heads of States for final validation. According to our sources, the meeting could take place on 24th and 25th of March. The local press also reported that the MMC agreed to engage in further consultations with civil society in the region before the submission to Ministers. For now, two of the region’s most active civil society and business groups on the EPA, namely the Plateforme des organisations de la société civile de l’Afrique de l’Ouest sur l’accord de Cotonou sur l’APE (POSCAO) and the National Associations of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) have harshly criticised the agreement. In an online statement issued after a press conference, POSCAO lamented that “credible alternatives have been ignored”.1  Citing the fears of seeing Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana signing unilaterally with the EU, the statement reads: “We recognize that this sacrifice of the world’s poorest, unprecedented in the history of international economic relations, has for only justification the wish of our nations of preserving hard-earned regional integration in West Africa.” It further calls on West Africa to reject the rendez-vous clause, which foresees future negotiations on new generation issues such as services, IPRs and competition, citing the lack of regional policies on these matters. NANTS, for its part, issued a strongly worded statement towards not only the EU but also neighbouring countries and the regional Commission. Citing its long voiced displeasure with the EPA, it calls on the Nigerian government to “ take over the leadership of West Africa in the EPA negotiations”. Emphasising the huge weight of Nigeria in the ECOWAS grouping, it called the prospect of an EPA without Nigeria “a joke”, implying that Nigeria could still determine the outcome of negotiations should it wish to do so. The statement goes on to question the degree to which the EPA is in sync with Nigeria’s policies. The statement ends with a call on the Nigerian parliament to review the country’s relation with ECOWAS should the EPA go ahead as planned: “For the Nigerian Parliament, this may be the right time to evaluate and reconsider the spending of tax payers fund on ECOWAS in the name of political and/or economic integration, while member countries therein keep hiding their allegiance elsewhere far from the integration, and for Nigeria to continuously bear the brunt. No country in ECOWAS can serve two masters – it is either integration in unity or autonomy.”2  The EAC and EU fail to reach an agreement in latest round in Brussels – second ministerial round to be scheduled The last final hurdles to come to an EAC-EU EPA appear to be harder to overcome than originally foreseen, but the EU and the EAC seem confident that the next ministerial round will be the last. At a meeting in Brussels on January 30th, held at ministerial level, the EU and the EAC managed to overcome relatively minor differences on Institution Arrangement and Dispute Settlement – leaving the heavy lifting to the next ministerial level round to be held after a senior officials meeting in late March. Issues that remain outstanding concern cumulation and asymmetry on rules of origin, the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, agricultural subsidies in the EU, and the non-execution clause. While these are a relatively small set of issues, they are also by far the most controversial ones. The non-execution clause is particularly controversial in light of the recent developments concerning Kenya and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The EAC’s current position is to reject the MFN clause, the article on export taxes and the non-execution clause altogether. On agricultural subsidies, the EU submitted a new proposal – in all likelihood centred around the announcement of Commissioner Cioloș to stop the use of export refunds on goods exported to EPA signatories. In this respect, the EU’s proposal on agriculture to the EAC is probably similar to the one it offered West Africa in February.3 Both the EAC and the EU foresee the next ministerial round as the last round in EPA negotiations in the region.4  Quentin de Roquefeuil is a Policy Officer at ECDPM. Footnotes 1. http://www.lifixew.com/declaration-de-la-societe-civile-de-lafrique-de-louest-sur-laccord-de-partenariat-economique-ape/ 2. http://www.trademarksa.org/news/ecowas-eu-economic-partnership-agreement-nants-statement 3. http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/newsroom/157_en.htm 4. See http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2009/january/tradoc_142194.pdf for the EU.   This article was published in GREAT Insights, Volume 3, Issue 3 (March 2014)
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