EPA confab on free trade ends

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A one-day workshop on Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to establish a free trade between the EU and Africa Carribea Pacific (ACP) countries, abolish tariffs between the parties, as well as non-tariff measures and other related issues, on Tuesday ended at NaNa Building in Bakau.

The workshop, which was organised by the Department of State for Trade, Industry and Employment, in collaboration with the EC National Authorising Office Support Unit (NAOSU) of the Department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, revolved on the theme ‘creating understanding and building consensus on the EPAs and other related issues.’

The workshop which brought together participants from the public and private sectors, as well as civil society organisations and NGOs, was meant to increase awareness on EPA’s process. 

In his remarks, Yusupha A Kah, Permanent Secretary, Department of State for Trade, Industry and Employment, said the EPA negotiation between West African countries and EU was launched in Cotonou on 6th-October 2003.  He said the mandate of the negotiation aimed at progressive creation of a Free Trade Area (FTA) between West Africa and EU, starting 1st January 2008.  “The objectives include among other priorities, development and poverty reduction cooperation on trade issues, deepening the West African integration process, improving the competitiveness and market access for West African export products,” he added.

Mr. Kah further pointed out that, at the national level, studies have indicated that The Gambia will suffer most, in terms of revenue loss. He then added that the recent impact study by the Commonwealth in 2005, estimated that a full EPA with the EC will bring about an overall increase in import into The Gambia, averaging US 64.513 million per annum which, he said, is an annual growth rate of 45% over the pre-EPA imports. 

“The same study indicated that The Gambia will lose customs duty revenue, amounting to US$40.71 million per annum which when compared to the pre-EPA customs duty revenue of US$44.55 million, representing a significant loss of 91%. As a result of these frightening statistics, The Gambia’s contribution to the mid-term review of Ecowas emphasised the revenue implication of the EPA for The Gambia, thus undermining the efforts for poverty reduction,” he revealed.

In his opening remarks, Bai Matarr Drammeh, President of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) highlighted that multilateral trading system has created the need for countries to come together to form trading blocks in order to have a stronger voice and better bargaining power at multilateral trade negotiations, especially under the auspices of the World Trade Organisations.

He expressed hope that now is the time for everybody, public, private sector and civil society to come together and open up debates to allow for more participatory approach.

Author: Written by Sheriff Barry
Source: The Daily Observer Newspaper