How do EPAs affect regional integration in West Africa?

The EPA is supposed to strengthen regional integration, but could also have negative effects.

The West Africa EPA negotiating group is made up of Mauritania and 15 ECOWAS member states, 8 of them area also members of UEMOA. These overlaps in membership add complexity to the EPA negotiations on the one hand, and to the creation and future development of the West African Customs and Monetary Union on the other hand. If Ivory Coast and Ghana – both countries signed interim EPAs – start reducing their tariffs in to fulfill their IEPA commitments, the effect on UEMOA’s and ECOWAS’ customs union would be dramatic, and might eventually lead to a collapse. The ECOWAS Common External Tariff would be undermined, since goods from the EU could bypass its borders via the EPA market openings in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Abandonment of the two signed IEPAs on the other hand would serve regional integration, but at the cost of reduced EU market access for Ghana and Ivory Coast. Signature of a full regional EPA covering all states would ease this problematic situation.

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