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John Mahama and the Destiny of ECOWAS - TIMELINE: The EPA and the ECOWAS


December 2007

Ivory Coast and Ghana agree Interim EPAs (IEPAs) with the EU to prevent trade disruption after the forthcoming expiry of the WTO waiver.

November 2008

Ivory Coast signs the IEPA.

December 2008

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government Summit asks the EU to take account of the development concerns of the region, notably concerning capacities and market access and on the financing of the cost of fiscal and economic adjustments of the EPA.

February 2009

The regional validation process for the West African Community Development Programme and the region's EPA Development Programme (EPADP) is launched.

May 2010

In a Council conclusion the EU Ministers of development outline their expected support to the EPADP.

March 2011

The West African summit expresses concern over the EPA deadlock due to persistent differences of opinion between the negotiating parties.

May 2011

Negotiations restart. Significant progress is made giving hope for a prompt conclusion.

November 2011

EU and West African negotiators meet in Accra, Ghana, at a technical level, from 15 to 18 November 2011, to discuss the way ahead. Progress is made in particular on the text of the draft agreement and the EPA Development Programme (PAPED), work continues on issues including market access offer.

With these in mind, not forgetting the timely and swift intervention of US and its Western Allies in the depressing situation within ECOMOG-led military-cum-political powerhouse, it is probably save, to argue that it might be unconscionable for ECOWAS to grant unconditional access to EU to enter its territories, when it is frustrated and powerless in addressing its chronic domestic ailments. After all, a friend in need is a friend indeed. ECOMOG and in general sense the Africa Union (AU), had repeatedly demonstrated how fragile and feeble they are, in fending their own internal security needs let alone prepared to withstand future “external aggression” if its core values are put to test or are forcefully challenged. What ECOWAS leadership needs now is not feet-dragging but a comprehensive legal framework that protects not only its local consumers or exporters but also, collective social policy regimes that guarantee anti-dumping rules and the future sustainability of ECOWAS and fair trade.

For example, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) was a not-for-profit and non-ministerial government department of the United Kingdom, established by the Fair Trading Act 1973, enforces both consumer protection and competition law, acting as the UK’s economic regulator [10]. The OFT’s goal is to make markets work well for consumers, ensuring vigorous competition between fair-dealing businesses and prohibiting unfair practices such as rogue trading, scams and cartels. Its role was modified and its powers changed with the Enterprise Act 2002. The OFT’s mission is to make markets work well for consumers. Markets work well, it explains, when businesses are in open, fair and vigorous competition with each other for the consumer's custom. “We pursue this goal by: encouraging businesses to comply with competition and consumer law and to improve their trading practices through self-regulation; acting decisively to stop hardcore or flagrant offenders; studying markets and recommending action where required; empowering consumers with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices and get the best value from markets.

In addition to the protection offered by OFT, not forgetting the established common law practices, in the UK, there exist statutory protection from unfair terms in the form of the Unfair Contracts Terms Act (UCTA) 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (UTCCR) 1999. The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 is a primary legislation whereas the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations is in the form of secondary legislation introduced to implement a European Directive. We mention in passing that whereas UTCCR only applies to contracts not individually negotiated, no such restriction applies in UCTA. Whereas under the UTCCRs any term is capable of amounting to an unfair term, under UCTA some terms are automatically treated as unfair. UTCCRs all terms must be shown to be unfair. UCTA applies a test of reasonableness in deciding whether terms are unfair. Accordingly, it has its own test of fairness based on dealing in good faith and balancing the rights and obligations of the parties. The Unfair Contract Terms Act goes beyond liability arising from contracts and extends to tortious liability arising from negligence or liability arising from the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 [11].

That aside, tt is worth noting that the free movement of goods as laid down by Articles 34, 35 and 36 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU), preventing Member States from adopting and maintaining unjustified restrictions on intra-EU trade, is not unlimited in scope under Art 34 TFEU. For example, selling arrangements and other marketing rules- opening hours for shops, indistinctly applicable to domestic and imported goods in principle, fall outside of its scope. Additionally, the TFEU provisions do not preclude prohibitions justified on grounds of public morality, public policy or public security, the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants, or the protection of industrial and commercial property, as well as other mandatory requirements recognised by the Court of Justice (e.g. protection of the environment). Such prohibitions must, however, remain proportionate and must not amount to arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade between Member States [12].


I have strove to show that accepting EPAs might not be as terrifying as Chinese-led galamsey incursions in Ghana as honest or fraudulent competition, exist among all human societies and nations. We must be measured therefore, in “our neo-colonial and imperial suspicions and historical worries when evaluating the economic and political efficacy of the EPAs. Unlike the Nigeria debacle, we respectfully ask Prez Mahama and ECOWAS to act swiftly on the EPAs. Our preoccupation is to make sure that legally, we have much access and fairness across all the crucial sectors of EU marketplace. After all; what profits ECOWAS if economically it barricades all its trade frontiers and perishes in the hands of Boko Harams?

Asante Fordjour authored this commentary




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