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General News Tue, 31 Aug 2010

EPA Workshop opens

Accra, Aug 31, GNA - Engagement with various stakeholders in the West African sub-region over the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiations between West Africa and the European Union had become urgent to ensure transparency and accountability.

The new regional concepts of transparency and accountability demands that the people are informed and given explanation as to what had been done so far and what more needs to be done in carrying out the directives of sub-regional leaders.

Mr. James Victor Gbeho, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, who disclosed these, added that "Through the sharing of information and strategies, our negotiators reflect policies and strategies that answer the demands of our peoples".

He was speaking at a workshop on EPAs for members of the ECOWAS Parliament, representatives of member state assemblies and other stakeholders.

Under the EPAs, the EU is seeking a reciprocal trade arrangement with the African, Carribean and Pacific states.

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Mr. Gbeho said "failure in the past to interact with constituents had given room for misinformation, misrepresentation and misreporting on the useful and vital service that we are performing on behalf of the sub-region".

He said objectives of the workshop included the need to ensure that all levels of stakeholders to be affected by the conclusions of the EPA negotiations are adequately and accurately informed on the progress, challenges, expected effects of the agreement and measures being put in place to ensure that the economic interest of West Africans are adequately protected and our common and interlocking future was not mortgaged.

In addition, the workshop would also serve as a platform to counteract the many negative campaigns directed at the EPA negotiations in the media and generally across the territories of strategic stakeholders of the sub-region.

"We also consider it very important and urgent to give a true and balanced view and to present regional perspectives in order to correct the claims of our negotiating partners in the international media as far as the EPAs are concerned.

Mr. Gbeho said the focus of the economic relationship or partnership agreement with the EU or any other region was for the purpose of economic development, reduction and eradication of poverty, sustained regional integration and integration of the sub-region into the world economy through trade arrangements that were in line with the World Trade Organisation.

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He said negotiations on the EPAs were proceeding very smoothly as the experts make concerted efforts to resolve outstanding areas between the parties.

Mr Gbeho said negotiations were on going in the areas of rules of origin, the tariff dismantling calendar aspect of the West Africa Market access offer, the EPA development programme and other unresolved issues in the draft text of the agreement.

He called on the Parliamentarians as ultimate owners and authorities in approving of major agreements to bring to bear their legislative experience and professional expertise in support of the regional negotiators.

This, Mr Gbeho said would enrich and reinforce the positions of African negotiators to take on the different aspects of the agreement, concretize the joint ownership and assure stakeholders that the negotiations in West Africa were transparent, based on shared interest and close cooperation.

Source: GNA