The EU’s EPA with ECOWAS: What we now know

Thu, 5 Jun 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Folks, despite all the protests, appeals to conscience, and what-have-you, the dust has gradually settled for us to know that the European Union has finally reached a consensus on the Economic Partnership Agreement with ECOWAS.

By this agreement, the ECOWAS member-countries will have to open up 70 per cent of their markets to EU goods, while having 100 percent access to the European market except for rice and sugar.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Haruna Iddrisu, has said Ghana’s final position on the EPA with the EU would largely be influenced by the decision of ECOWAS. Following the consensus, it is likely that Ghana will sign the agreement.

But speaking in a meeting with Members of Parliament, Head of EU delegation to Ghana, Claude Maerten said it is up to the individual member countries to decide whether to sign the pact. He said heads of state of the European Union have agreed to commit 6.5 billion euros assistance to countries that will sign the agreement. The amount is also expected “to help the economic transformation of the region”, he said.

The engagement is part of efforts to meet policy-makers and the public on the fine details of the Economic Partnership Agreement.

(Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/business/2014/June-3rd/ecowas-seals-epa-deal-with-eu.php)


I laugh to scorn all those behind this pulling of wool over the eyes of the public—as if the EPA had, indeed, been rejected and more negotiation/mediation needed to be done for a compromise that we are being told today has been reached.

From the very beginning when the idea was mooted for the EPA to this point in the handling of the matter, the ECOWAS countries haven’t played any important role to factor their sentiments or concerns, wishes and expectations into the EPA.

The EPA was cooked in the closet of the EU and is now being prepared for serving to be consumed by the effeminate ECOWAS leaders and their benighted citizens!!

At the one-day Yamoussokro conference, we were told that Nigeria shied away from endorsing the EPA and called for more homework on it first. The impression created then was that the EPA didn’t meet the expectations of ECOWAS. That was the starting point for the conspiracy to thicken.

Behind-the-scene intrigues took over to get us where we are today about the EPA. The manipulations and threats that have brought about this so-called consensus cannot be under-estimated, even as we continue to blame our leaders for being too docile for our liking. They have succumbed to the pressure to endorse this EPA, meaning that the stage is now set for their dance with the devil to begin. We won’t enjoy it!!

Some peculiar provisions of the agreement irk me. According to the EPA, “ECOWAS countries… would… have to open up 70 percent of their markets to EU goods, while having 100 percent access to the European market except for rice and sugar”.

I don’t want to bother my head over what constitutes 70% of the ECOWAS countries’ markets but their being told that they have 100 per cent access to the European market to sell their products (goods, agricultural produce, etc.) “except rice and sugar” says a lot. Why not?

What is wrong with ECOWAS countries’ producing rice and sugar to sell in European markets? Obviously, something is not adding up here; but I will leave the issue hanging.

And there is a wily part that we shouldn’t miss. We are being told that the EU has agreed “to commit 6.5 billion euros assistance to countries that will sign the agreement… to help the economic transformation of the region.”

Economic transformation? By what means? Policies and programmes being enunciated by the EU for implementation or home-grown policies to jump-start and transform the economy? “For where”? (as my friend will put it). Anything new by way of policies and programmes? Total deception!!

I don’t think that by getting this EPA endorsed and merely committing that money to that intention or purpose, the EU will be doing anything substantially different from what some of its member states have been doing individually in the ECOWAS countries over the years. How much assistance haven’t Britain, France, Germany, etc. given these ECOWAS countries to date?

Yet, there is little evidence in the beneficiary ECOWAS countries to confirm that such forms of assistance have been put to good use to alleviate suffering. What is the guarantee that this 6.5 billion Euro support will make any difference?

Again, I don’t think that the EU is operating as a “Father Christmas” to dole out gifts to the obliging ECOWAS countries just for its own sake. The EU is out to make gains by seeking to enter the 70% of the ECOWAS market that it is twisting arms for. Otherwise, what will be its motivation for bulldozing its way through the terrain, initiating this EPA, spearheading efforts to sustain it and shepherding it toward endorsement? The EU knows the cost-benefit prospects and is opting for what will serve its own interests.

What is happening to the blind side of many is clear to me: the absence of limitations on goods/services from the EU to the ECOWAS market. If the EU can boldly tell us what it doesn’t expect from ECOWAS to enter its “100 per cent market” (that is, rice and sugar), what have the ECOWAS leaders been able to pinpoint as not desirable in the ECOWAS market? None, just because they lack the voice or authority/power to influence the provisions of the EPA. Lame ducks!!

So, the primary commodities that the ECOWAS countries produce will enter the EU markets in exchange for the flooding of their own markets of goods (just any at all, including those already being produced at home)—to kill local industrial initiative and reduce the people to consumers of others’ goods. Don’t tell me that this kind of arrangement is equitable.

I am also more peculiarly concerned about the threat by the EU to impose sanctions on any country that refuses to sign the EPA. That is why I condemn the claim by Claude Maerten (Head of EU delegation to Ghana) for saying that it is up to the individual member countries to decide whether to sign the pact. You see, good friends, these Europeans wield the clout as if they are still colonizing us. It is all because our leaders lack balls!! Liberia’s Sirleaf Johnson doesn’t have balls but she is also in the same soup to be ridiculed. Spineless leaders selling out their own people for mere pottage!!

As preparations begin for the usual display of grandeur at the signing ceremony, I will continue to mock these ECOWAS leaders for what they are. I wish one of them could be strong enough to redirect attention to domestication (thanks to the late Dan Lartey) as the first step toward resuscitating the economy instead of opening the floodgates to vampires roaming about and seeking whom/whatever to devour. Poor citizens of ECOWAS being prepared for emasculation under the guise of the EPA. Pathetic, indeed!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.