The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the weekend failed to sign the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
The expectation of a final seal to the agreement at the 44th Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS Authority fizzled out last Saturday night after West Africa’s economic powerhouse, Nigeria, had raised issues with the agreement.
A communique issued at the end of the ECOWAS meeting in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, said some member states, particularly Nigeria, had raised some technical issues about the agreement, compelling the Heads of State and Government to shelve the signing of the EPA.
According to the communique, even though the Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their "strong commitment" to the agreement and endorsed its conclusion in principle, they still felt there was the need to iron out "the outstanding technical issues"
As a result of the development, it said, the authority had directed the chief negotiators to, within two months, take steps to address the issues raised by Nigeria and other member states before the agreement could be signed.
"The authority also directs the chief negotiators to establish a committee including representatives from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire to look at these issues and present the final outcome to the Heads of State and Government," the communique stated.
Later at a news conference, the new ECOWAS Chairman, President John Dramani Mahama, stated that much as in principle they agreed to the EPA, it was important to negotiate an agreement that would be beneficial to their peoples.
The EPA is a trade and development agreement negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries engaged in a regional economic integration process.
It aims, among other things, at helping countries in regional and subregional blocs to integrate into the world economy and share in the opportunities offered by globalisation.
But in Ghana and other West Africa
and religious and farmer-based groups have opposed the signing of the agreement by ECOWAS.
They argue that the agreement will worsen the economic problems of the countries that sign on to it.
ECOWAS, however, is pushing hard for it to come into operation, even in the face of the issues raised by some of the member states.
The ECOWAS communique, which was read by the ECOWAS Commission President, Mr Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, also touched on regional economic performance and consolidation of the common market.
It said the Heads of State reemphasised the need to step up economic growth to sustain employment and facilitate the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"To sustain the good economic prospects in the region, the authority urges member states to pursue efforts deployed towards putting in place sound and stable macroeconomic frameworks," it stated.
It commended the President of Burkina Faso, Mr Blaise Campoare, for the role he had played to ensure the free movement of persons and goods across his country.
"Thp Summit also commends President John Dramani Mahama and President Mahamafou Issoufou of Niger for the measures taken in fulfilment of the mandate given to them by the authority to oversee the process towards monetary convergence for West Africa," it said.
Peace and security
The authority renewed the commitment to ensure peace and security in the sub-region through good governance and democracy.
On Mali, the authority asked all nonstate armed groups to lay down their weapons for the peace process to proceed.
It also touched on the upcoming general election in Guinea Bissau and called for peaceful polls.