Abuja - West Africa countries and the European Union will resume their suspended Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations for the creation of a free trade before the end of January.
This information is contained in a statement issued by ECOWAS Assistant Director of Communication, Sunny Ugoh, in Abuja on Thursday.
The statement said that the resumption of the negotiations followed the directive by the ECOWAS extraordinary summit in Dakar in October 2013 calling for flexibility in the process.
“The summit also directed West Africa’s chief negotiators to expeditiously resume negotiations with their European partners with a view to concluding a regional agreement as soon as possible,’’ it said.
The statement said that negotiations were suspended in 2012 following divergences mainly over market access offer and the EPA Development Programme (EPADP).
It also described EPADP as a dedicated funding programme to enable West Africa cope with the cost of adjustment to the impending trade regime.
The statement said that initially, West Africa had offered to open 60 per cent of its market over 25 years which it later revised to 70 per cent over the same period.
It stated that the EU had maintained its original position of an 80 per cent market opening over 15 years.
The statement also stated that West Africa, comprising the 15 ECOWAS member states and Mauritania, also asked for $15billion in new funds for the EPADP.
It stated that the European Union insisted that the programme should be funded from existing bilateral and multilateral contributions.
The Dakar meeting would be led by Directors of trade of ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) Commissions.
“Others are the European Union officials and representatives of ECOWAS ambassadors in Brussels,’’ the statement added.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is a scheme to create a free trade area between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.