The Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations between West Africa and the European Union has restated the attachment of all the countries of the region to regional integration and the conclusion of
an EPA, which is capable of contributing to the economic and social development of the West African region.
This decision was contained in the declaration adopted at the end of the MMC meeting held in Ouagadougou on 17th December 2007.
The meeting was convened to review the status of the negotiations and make recommendations to the chief negotiators. The ministerial consultation was necessitated following recent developments relating to the interim agreements initialed by Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
The ministers also reaffirmed their willingness to pursue their efforts to ensure the successful conclusion of negotiations and the signing of a comprehensive, fair, balanced and mutually beneficial EPA that meets the development objectives of West Africa.
During their deliberations, the ministers dealt specially with the new situation created by the initialing of interim agreements by some medium-income countries of the region, and their consequences for the region’s negotiation strategy with effect from 1st January 2008 and the road map for concluding the negotiations with the European Commission.
The MMC urged Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to ensure that the agreements that they initialed with the European Union were consistent with the commitments that they made under the region’s integration process.
In his address to the meeting, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas recalled that the EPA negotiations should not only contain a trade component but should also, and more importantly, take into account the integration and development dimension of West Africa. He stressed that cohesion, unity and solidarity must be maintained in West Africa in order to ensure that a comprehensive EPA was concluded that is consistent with the development and integration objectives of the region.
The pre-conditions for signing the EPA were re-emphasized. These include the definition of support measures and programmes and their financing by the European Union, the formulation of a schedule of market access offer as well as the drafting of the text of the agreement.
In his speech, the chairman of the Ministerial Monitoring Committee of the negotiations and Minister of Trade, Promotion of Enterprise and Cottage Industry of Burkina Faso, Mr Mamadou Sanou, acknowledged that for the region to better integrate the diversity of its national economies, it must avoid tailor-made integration and deepen dialogue between the countries whenever there are differences of interests.
A new timetable was formulated for pursuing and concluding the negotiations.
The heads of state and government had in 2001, mandated the ECOWAS Commission to conduct the EPA negotiations, in collaboration with the UEMOA Commission.