Sunday, October 07, 2007

West African trading bloc seeks to delay changes in trade agreements required by the WTO

SOURCE: Reuters—“West Africa to miss EU trade partnership deadline”

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) met last week in Cote d’Ivoire in efforts to reach agreement on their approach to upcoming negotiations with the European Union (EU) over an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the two markets. Currently it is expected that Ecowas will miss the December 31, 2007 deadline set for signing the EPA.

The EPA will take the place of existing trade agreements between Ecowas and the EU. These trade agreements were disapproved by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which also set the December 31 deadline.

Ecowas is reportedly hoping to secure a delay for imposition of the EPA which will conform with WTO guidelines while permitting them to enjoy preferential treatment under the current regime for another two years. EU finance ministers are seeking an interim agreement that will allow the EPA terms to be implemented on schedule.

Ecowas is concerned that the EPA as currently drafted will expose vulnerable West African markets to floods of European imports and that the loss of the preference status accorded by the trade agreement will also undermine exports to Europe.


Is preferential treatment under trade agreements that do not comply with WTO principles necessary to allow developing economies a chance in markets that would otherwise be wholly dominated by developed countries?

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