The Cape Verdean Minister says no country develops without protecting its markets.
In spite of increasing pressure from the European Union, EU, Cape Verde’s Minister of External Relations, Jorge Borges, has warned the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, of dire consequences if they concede and allow 80-per cent of the region’s markets and economy to be opened up under a new Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, being negotiated by the two regions for a free trade area between them.
The EU has been insisting that West Africa opens its market by 80 per cent over 15 years period, against its commitment to offer 70 per cent over 25 years under the proposed economic pact.
Negotiations between the two regions have been stalled for about a year over a number of unresolved issues, among them, the opening of West Africa market, the EPA development Programme, EPADP, and the application of the most favoured nation.
West Africa, which includes the 15 ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania, is insisting that the EU fund the EPADP, a programme to enable it cope with the consequences of implementing the impending EPA with the injection of 6.5 billion Euros in fresh funds.
The EU has rejected this request, offering instead facilities under the European Development Fund, EDF, and sundry resources for funding including bilateral contributions to West African States.
But declaring open a one-day meeting of regional ministers of trade and finance in Praia, the Cape Verdean capital, Mr. Borges pleaded caution, warning that no country develops without protecting its industries and markets.
According to the minister, the region ran the risk of having its market taken over by European goods if they concede to the suggested opening of its market by the EU.
He reiterated West Africa’s position that the impending agreement should promote the region’s socio-economic development agenda and not to kill its market and economy.
In the intervening period, West Africa has sought to involve in the process regional parliamentarians, who have also engaged with their EU counterparts, while Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have gone ahead to sign interim agreements with the EU to retain their export preferences into the region.
While acknowledging the milestones that have been recorded in the 10-year long negotiations, Mr. Borges said West Africa must remain focused on ensuring that the new trade regime helps to actualise its development objectives, including progressively inserting the region into the global economy, improving the competitiveness of the regional economy and reducing poverty.
The ECOWAS Commission President, Desire Kadre Ouédraogo, said the adoption of a regional Common External Tariff, CET, by regional ministers of finance represents a good sign of the success of the meeting.
The EPA is to replace the previous trade arrangements that guided trade relations between West Africa and the European Union.
Unlike the previous trade regimes between the two regions, the President said the ongoing negotiations have enabled West Africa to emphasise its development priorities, adding that the EPA should not be seen solely as a trade issue, but as a development platform.