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PRESS COMMUNIQUE FROM THE WEST AFRICA CIVIL SOCIETY ON THE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT

« The civil society calls Council of Ministers of ECOWAS to reject the 75% market access offer and to stop the “fuite en avant” in the EPAs negotiations

West Africa (Dakar, Abuja), 20 June - The 70th ordinary session of the Council of Ministers of ECOWAS is taking place between 20 and 21f June 2013 in Abidjan – Cote d’Ivoire to discuss key issues related to regional integration in West Africa. Among the issues, the main discussions will focus on the Common External Tariff adopted by the Ministers of Finance in March 2013 in Praia – Cape Verde, and the new subtle proposal to further open the regional market within the framework of the Economic partnership agreement.

The West African civil society, in its huge diversity, supports and encourages the Council of Ministers to speed up the process for the adoption of appropriate commercial and economic tools which speak to the interests and aspirations of West African  and which is fundamentally based on the construction of an integrated and strong regional market.

Unfortunately, the achievement of this major goal which has been pursued since 1975, is no longer in line with the current orientation of ECOWAS negotiators who are ready to grant to the EU a 75 percent  opening of the West African market, despite the expressed disapproval of the majority of West African actors buttressed by rigorous studies.

Therefore, the civil society asks the Council of Ministers to reject the proposed 75% regional market liberalization offer. We strongly believe that the sacrifices made by the West Africa region to get closer to the EU positions must be proportional to the efforts made by the EU to reach the same goal. But so far, it is abundantly manifest that the EU has been unwillingness to do so, sticking to its legal certainty, its economic dogmatism and its lack of political flexibility which go against the notion of respectful partnership and the tenets of Special and Differential Treatment of the WTO. By using pressure and threats as a strategy to respond to its partners’ legitimate concerns, the EU Commission is guilty of being the main gravedigger in the partnership between Europe and West Africa.

The Council of Ministers must note that the 75% liberalization of the West African market is not sustainable for the 11 LDCs and the 4 developing countries which constitute the region. West Africa regional integration is being seriously threatened. And the signature of an unbalanced and destructive EPA must not be the price to pay to preserve our hard earned integration process. The disintegration of West Africa due to the non conclusion of the EPA is not an acceptable option. And the signature of a bad agreement in order to save the regional integration is not the solution either.

We wish to assert that in a complex and trouble world, faced with challenges and looming threats, the peoples of West African expect strong leadership from their decision makers, in order to reach progress, which cannot be matched with approximate decisions and political choices. The quest for credible alternatives and acceptable political and economic solutions is an imperative for the region. The 2007 scenario which showed an image of a region lacking internal and sovereign solutions to propose to its member States in difficulty must be avoided whatever the price. The Council must therefore be guided by the wisdom that rather than shackle the future of West Africa citizens under a cage in the guise of trade agreement, concerted efforts must be made to extend our hands of trade relations to other emerging and friendly economies such as the BRICS.

We conclude by informing the Council of Ministers to avoid being used to achieve selfish motives and pursuits of a few who have chosen to deviate from the legitimate institution - the Ministerial Monitoring Committee, which has been in-charge of and vested with the responsibility of EPA negotiations. Any act to the contrary may be deemed illegal and we do not wish our dear credible Council of Ministers to be railroaded into this through the back door.

Signatories:

1.       National association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS, NIGERIA)

2.       Third World Network Africa (TWNAFRICA, GHANA)

3.       Centre africain pour le commerce, l’intégration et le développement (CACID, Afrique de l’Ouest)

4.       West African civil society Forum (WACSOF)

5.       Centre du commerce international pour le développement (CECIDE, Guinée)

6.       Forum social sénégalais (SENEGAL)

7.       Mouvement de la société civile (GUINEE BISSAU)

8.       Groupe d’action et de recherche sur l’environnement et le développement (GARED ; TOGO)

9.       Coordination malienne des acteurs non étatiques (CMANE AC, MALI)

10.   Enda Tiers Monde (SENEGAL)

11.   Organisation de la société civile d’Afrique francophone (OSCAF)

12.   Groupe de Recherche et d’Action pour la Promotion de l’Agriculture et du Développement (GRAPAD, BENIN)

13.   Réseaux des organisations et plateformes de la société civile (REPAOC, SENEGAL)

14.   Plateforme des organisations de la société civile du Bénin (PASCIB, BENIN)

15.   Plateforme des organisations de la société civile de l’Afrique de l’Ouest sur l’Accord de Cotonou (POSCAO)

16.   Réseau des organisations de défense des droits de l’homme de la démocratie et du développement (RODDADHD ; NIGER)

17.   Worldview (GAMBIA)

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