Banjul - the Gambia — Regional experts have recommended an upward review of West Africa's market access offer to the European Union (EU) in a major concession to revive stalled negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the two regions.
The negotiations have stalled for over a year following disagreements between the two parties over the degree and duration of market opening among other issues.
While the EU wants an 80-per cent market opening, West Africa is now offering 70 per cent, based on worries that the opening level demanded by the EU would expose West Africa to an avalanche of imports from the EU and damage its industrial base particularly sensitive products.
The regional experts proposed the review at their meeting in Banjul, the Gambia, 6-10 May 2013. This followed the decision by the last regional Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) meeting in Cape Verde in March 2013 urging the region to continue discussions on the stimulated offer proposed by the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions.
Members of the two Commissions had raised concerns over the treatment of some products under the EU offer and its impact on their domestic economies.
In addition to West Africa's concern over the market access offer, the region is also concerned over EU's position on the EPA Development Programme (EPADP ) for which the region is asking for some 15 billion Euros in fresh funds to enable it cope with the cost of adjustment to the EPA.
On the contrary, the EU prefers to support the region from existing commitments amounting to about six billion euro under the European Development Fund (EDF) and bilateral contributions to Member States.
The experts further recommended that efforts should continue to determine the extent of fiscal revenue losses that will accompany the opening for each country and the region, while a simple mechanism should be established in each country for offsetting the fiscal impact of tariff dismantling, and the process for the formulation and implementation of tax reforms fast tracked.
They also called for the prioritization of the development of regional infrastructure in order to lower production costs in the region to improve the competitiveness of national economies.
Member States were equally urged to make budgetary provisions in 2014 to kick off the implementation of some preliminary activities for the EPADP and the setting up of the EPA Regional Fund.