The European Union Delegation to Liberia has announced the decision of the European Council to provide at least 6.5 billion euros for the Economic Partnership Agreement Development Program (PAPED) for West Africa during the period 2015 – 2020.
The funds will greatly enhance trade and investment flow to 16 West African countries, including Liberia, thereby contributing to their development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
The provision of the funds by the European Council, according to a statement, is an essential element of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiated with West Africa, and will provide funding for projects linked to trade, industry, transport and energy infrastructure in the region, as well as through support to civil society.
In approving the funds, the European Council noted that "the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is an important step for the partnership between West Africa and the European Union (EU), in coherence with the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, for sustainable economic development that can benefit the West African population including its poorest segments."
The European Council, in addition, welcomed the efforts and progress which West African countries and regional institutions have made to foster regional integration, stating it recalls the fundamental role of regional integration as being instrumental in securing peace, stability and sustainable economic development, as well as its political commitment in support of aid for trade and to mobilise financial flows.
According to the press release, this substantial new commitment from the European Commission and the EU Member States, demonstrates the EU’s continuous support to West Africa's regional integration, which is the most advanced of the African continent.
European Commissioner for development, Andris Piebalgs, and Karel De Gucht, for Trade policy, have meanwhile welcomed the decision of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council, confirming new EU support of at least €6.5 billion for the Economic Partnership Agreement Development Program (PAPED) for West Africa.
Commissioner Piebalgs said: "EU's commitment responds to the needs expressed by West Africa and will allow the region to take advantage of all the opportunities of the Economic Partnership Agreement. The implementation of the EPA will be instrumental in creating favourable conditions to boost trade in the region and stimulate growth and job creation. The development of the region will also contribute to increase peace and stability in West Africa."
In 2010, the EU already pledged to provide €6.5 billion to support the PAPED for the period 2010-2014. This pledge was eventually increased and the EU has funded projects worth €8.2 billion (through the European instruments, Member States’ bilateral cooperation and the European Investment Bank).
The region of West Africa1 includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cap Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Mauritania.
In the Foreign Affairs Council's conclusions, the European Union acknowledges the importance of the Economic Partnership Agreement Development Program (PAPED) developed by West Africa during the negotiations of the EPA between the 16 states in the region and the European Union.
The PAPED has five objectives including promoting diversification and growth in production capacity; development of trade within the region and improved access to internal markets; improvement and reinforcement of regional and national infrastructure linked to trade; fiscal, social and economic reforms, and other trade-related issues; implementation of EPA monitoring and evaluation.
The PAPED is an essential step in the process towards the implementation of the future EPA.
Also, the EPA represents a new kind of partnership between West Africa and the EU in the sense that although it is a trade agreement, it has a specific development objective. It is designed to strengthen West-African economies via the production and export of a wider range of goods, and by increasing trade between the countries in the region.
The negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement between West Africa and the European Union have recently been concluded and endorsement at political level is expected in due course.
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific regions engaged in a regional economic integration process. The EPAs were put in place to help ACP countries integrate into the world economy and share in the opportunities offered by globalisation.