Who are the key actors?

The ECOWAS Commission, the WAEMU Commission, their member states, the European Commission, and EU member states, as well as non-state actors.

At the negotiations, the Regional Negotiating Committee represents the West Africa region, while the European Commission represents the European side. Trade talks take place at three levels: the expert level, the senior official level, and between Chief Negotiators.

At the bottom, the expert level, technical advisors, officials of the EU, ECOWAS, UEMOA and of member states, as well as civil society representatives and private sector stakeholders meet to study and discuss each EPA point. The conclusions of their deliberations, in particular points of discrepancy are then forwarded to the senior official level.

Talks at the senior official level are less technical and more political. West Africa is represented by the Vice Chairman of ECOWAS who is assisted by the UEMOA commissioner in charge of customs and commercial policies. The EU is represented by the Director in charge of West Africa at the Directorate General for Trade. These senior officials, who meet more rarely, set the mandate for the technical thematic expert groups, evaluate their progress, adopt conclusions and then hand over to the chief negotiators.

At the Chief Negotiator level, the presidents of the ECOWAS and UEMOA commissions, as well as delegates from member states represent West Africa. The EU Trade Commissioner leads the European side. They meet at the beginning and final stage of each negotiating phase, provide final arbitration to the senior official’s work and give political guidance for the next steps.

Two other bodies exist: A “contact group” composed of representatives from the European, ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions, facilitates the talks and related meetings. The “Regional Preparation Task Force” facilitates and coordinates financial cooperation.

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