Exports from ECOWAS countries to Europe have increased from $8.8bn in 2002 to $14bn, the ECOWAS Commission disclosed.
To maintain and possibly improve the trend, the Commission has stepped up efforts to persuade member states to get more involved in negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA).
Speaking at the just-ended First ECOWAS Business Forum, the Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement of People at the Commission, Mohammed Daramy, said the steady increase in trade meant that the sub-region could take greater advantage of the proposals in the Agreement for the benefit of the region.
He went on that in spite of the increase in ECOWAS exports, mineral products still dominated the exports of member countries, while the EU countries also continued to increase their exports to ECOWAS in machinery, mechanical and transport equipment.
Daramy, however, said that ECOWAS intra-regional trade constituted an estimated 14 per cent of the total volume of trade.
While admitting that there would be some negative impacts from the Agreement, Daramy maintained that the modalities for assessing the net fiscal impact and mechanisms for payment of compensations were yet to be established.
He also said a study on the Computable General Equilibrium was being prepared, and suggested that the region's private sector should drive economic growth through increased production.
He noted that as a way of reaching a favourable bargain with the EU, there should be an improved supply chain relationship in the region's private sector structures.
Meanwhile, representatives of ECOWAS countries at the forum called for caution, and warned against hasty decisions over the EPA.
There was a consensus that for the region to benefit from the Agreements, it must make deliberate efforts to delovelop its economy through the involvement of the private sector and the creation of enabling business environment.
By Felix Dela Klutse