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West Africa Countries and EU Sign Economic Partnership Agreement

A trade agreement signed between the European Union (EU) and the heads of 16 West African states secures full duty-free access for the countries. Under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the EU will provide West African companies with conditions that are more advantageous than those that apply to European exports to Africa.

The 16 West Africa countries covered in the agreement include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

During negotiations, the regions’ differences in development were considered. The EU agreed to open its market to all West African products. In exchange, the EU accepted a partial and gradual opening of the West African market. Only when West Africa is ready to grant more far-reaching concessions to Europe’s main competitors, will the EU be able to claim those same improvements.

Additionally, West Africa will be able to continue to protect its agriculture products from European competition either by tariffs or imposing safeguard measures when necessary. The EU has also agreed to not to subsidies any of its agriculture exports to West Africa.

The agreement will be presented to the officials in the EU and the Economic Community of West African States for final signatures and ratification. EU commissioner for trade Karel De Gucht, said, “We are building a privileged economic partnership with West Africa that will be a foundation of long-term growth and future prosperity in a region that is so close to Europe.” He added, “To help the EPA deliver its promise for development, the EU and West Africa need to implement this deal as soon as possible.”

West Africa currently contributes 40 percent of total trade between the EU and all the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions. West African exports toward the EU account for $5.6 billion. The EU expects that number to increase once the EPA is finalized.