Are EPAs good or bad for West Africa?

There is no clear-cut answer, they could be either.

While the EU was emphasising the potential benefits of trade liberalisation, NGOs were campaigning against it. Consequently, a set of myths around EPAs emerged. In fact EPAs are different from conventional trade deals and have a strong development component. To really “put trade at the service of development” it is crucial that the arrangements and timetable for opening up West African Markets are well aligned to the region’s needs and development objectives. Nevertheless, negative effects are possible. That is why EPAs also foresee the implementation of a set of accompanying measures meant to mitigate these. A potential negative effect of EPAs is government revenue loss since trade liberalisation implies lower tariffs. Additional development funding can compensate this loss, especially if invested in building efficient domestic taxation systems, which could generate additional revenue. Another possible risk is that European products could flood regional markets in West Africa and domestic industries would collapse. In theory this could indeed be the case, but long transition periods and measures for upgrading competitiveness in the affected sectors could alleviate the negative effects. Also, both sides can exclude a number of sensitive products from the scope of liberalisation.

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