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EU and West Africa move forward on Regional Economic Partnership Agreement
By Aminata Fofanah
Jun 23, 2009, 17:12
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The European Union and West African countries have agreed to conclude a regional agreement on trade in goods and development cooperation by October 2009.

EU Trade Commissioner, Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, met Presidents Chambas and Cisse of the two regional organizations ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and UEMOA (Union Economique et monetaire quest-africaine) and West African Ministers in Brussels.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward the longer term process of building a lasting partnership between the EU and West Africa.

Commissioner Ashton said: "The decision today has set us on the road to concluding a comprehensive trade partnership with the full West African region. This will support the ongoing economic integration process and development, and I would like to pay tribute to the West Africa negotiators who have worked so hard with us to establish a regional consensus and get to this point. I am confident we can settle the remaining issues and move forward".

Commissioner Michael said: "Our latest meeting is a clear sign that we are back on track- making steady progress with our West African partners. Our goal must remain to reach an agreement on a full EPA that brings development support and benefits for all countries in the region. This will support regional integration: regional markets that attract investment and sustain jobs and regional governance that can address problems which individual countries can no longer solve on their own. This is much needed during difficult times such as the present financial crisis".

The agreement to be reached by October 2009 with the West African Region will cover trade in goods, some trade rules and development cooperation, and will lay the foundation for a comprehensive agreement between the EU and West Africa.

The EPA Programme for Development (PAPED) was identified as an essential pillar to boost competitiveness in the region, reduce adjustment costs of the EPA and support regional integration.

European and West African negotiators had met last week in Cotonou (Benin) and again just before the ministerial meeting in Brussels. Compromises were found on export taxes and free circulation and on EPA-related development co-operation.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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