By Sailu Bah Stakeholders from different institutions and organisations on Tuesday, 17 February, 2015 at Tango Conference Hall in Fajara convergedto discuss the impact of the signing the EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on West African countries. The forum, organized by Gambia Social Forum, drew participants from the public and private sectors, civil society, media, among others. According to the organisers, the aim of the forum is to sensitise people from all sectors on the consequences of signing the EPA. It was noted that the Gambia is among the five countries who have not yet signed the EPA. In her welcoming remark, Mrs. Tabu Njie Sarr, representing the Executive Director of Tango, said her organisation has long been partnering with Gambia Social Forum on this issue and that they have continued to work as partners. She urged participants to commit themselves and contribute positively in order to realise the objectives of the forum. Kebba Sima, the representative of Action Aid International The Gambia (AAITG), thanked both the organizers and participants. He said AAITG’s mission is to eradicate poverty and hunger and to work towards nation building and fight against injustice. He described the workshop as vital as it will help in sensitizing people on the EPAs and to have a better possible solution in coming up with tangible suggestions. Yadicone Njie Eribo, a member of Social Forum, applauded the support of AAITG towards the success of their programs, adding that they have been working together in national and international fora. She also underscored the importance of the event, adding that people should think critically about signing the EPA. Mr. Amadou Taal, the chairperson of the session, highlighted the main objectives of the EPA which is said to lead countries to higher levels of development.  He said EPA is a trade agreement which countries need to look into in order to see to it that it leads to a win-win situation. He said the agreement is calling for the markets of members states to be opened to the companies within the member states, adding that studies have revealed that the EPA will lead to the drastic reduction of revenues derived from import duties. “When you liberalise your trade, the market will have to compete with EU markets. The competition will not be fair for the African countries because those companies in Europe have more experience and enjoy subsidies from their governments,” said Mr. Taal. Mr,  Abdoulie Jammeh, Director of Trade at the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration, Industry and Employment (MOTIE), said the EU has negotiated for the EPA to replace the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000 between the EU and countries in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP). “The EPAs are meant to provide for trade reciprocity, promote sustainable development and further regional integration by encouraging African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to enter the negotiations with the EU in regional groupings,” he explained. “The negotiations took over ten years to reach a deal – from 2003 to 2014.Given the existing difference in the economic structures of West African economies, the negotiation of the EPAs posted a challenge for the regional integration. LDCs that are benefiting from DFQF market access under the EU “Everything but Arms” scheme if no EPA was signed. Non-LDCs in the region – such as Ivory Coast and Ghana, both agreed on an IEPA since 2007 to maintain their preferential access to the EU, Nigeria and Cape Verde (without any EPA) but which currently benefitted from the regular EU GSP. West Africa was facing a risk of having their regional integration efforts fractured,” said Mr. Jammeh. Mr Lamin Nyangado, a Consultant, said alternatives have to be looked at before African countries sign the EPA. He said the ECOWAS policies should be reviewed in order to be able to take precedence over any other trade agreement. Mr. Nyangado recommended for the development and promotion of regional markets towards intra/inter regional integration to build the economies of African countries. He also suggested that efforts should be made to promote the concept of Lumoo markets at the regional level.]]>

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