ECOWAS customs union challenged
West African finance ministers met in Dakar on 15-16 August during the 18th meeting of the joint ECOWAS-UEMOA Committee on the management of the Common External Tariff (CET). The objective of the meeting was to discuss two major concerns: the regional economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union and the implications for the ECOWAS CET. The finalisation of the EPA has been slow; it has been signed by every country in the region, except for The Gambia and Nigeria, who fear that their fledgling industries will be weakened by having to compete with European products. At the same time, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are in favour of strengthening trade ties with the EU and have set up interim agreements with the EU. These interim bilateral agreements are on track to be ratified. They are, however, not compatible with the CET which entered into force on 1 January 2015 and introduces standardised customs tariffs across the region. Faced with these inconsistencies that also jeopardize regional integration, ECOWAS Commission President Alain Marcel de Souza called on countries to prioritise the regional EPA and to expedite the application of the CET, which has yet to be implemented in six countries.
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