Economic of West African Countries (ECOWAS), is reviewing issues of industrialization, and development dimension, two major reasons why Nigeria hesitates to sign the 16-year-old, West Africa, European Union, Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
This statement was made by the ECOWAS Commissioner of Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Laouali Chaibou, who was represented by ECOWAS Director of Commerce, Gbenga Obideyi, at the Media Workshop on International Trade Agreements, in Abuja.
Obideyi said Nigeria’s major reasons for balking on the economic negotiation, falls on its mono-economy, and deficit in the energy, infrastructure sectors and lack of industrialization. These are three sectors relevant to the region’s economic growth.
Although, there are articles in the EPA, such as the ‘periodical review of the EPA every five years’, that allows negotiators to address reservation, and another EPA article that provides Development Dimension to West Africa countries,” noted Obideyi, Nigeria holds its reservation.
This is despite the fact that 13 ECOWAS countries have signed the EPA, with Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire ratifying their bilateral agreements with the EU. Nigeria, Gambia and Mauritania are yet to sign the EPA.
According to Obideyi, Nigeria dissatisfied with the 6.5bn Euros Development Dimension, (EU’s support fund), available to the 16 countries involved in the West Africa, EU regional trade agreements, for a period of five years, demanded it be readressed.
He said discussions are ongoing with Nigeria, the E.U and ECOWAS. “If Nigeria is going to sign the EPA, we need to assure her on this issue of industrialization needs. We have also noted her concerns on the development dimension, available to the 15 ECOWAS countries, and Mauritania, involved in the West Africa, EU EPA regional trade negotiation, and accepted that it should be addressed.”
Meantime, the Deputy Head of EU Delegation to the EU & ECOWAS, Richard Young, added that the EPA also protects the Nigerian and West African markets by ensuring that 25 percent of all goods from the EU do not have duty free access to the Nigerian market.
“This permanent element means that they will never have duty free access in West Africa market. Two, progressively, overtime, there will be relaxation in the tariff exercised on European goods, and the progressive reduction is between 5 and 20 years. We have a trade agreement that opens up EU market to duty free, quota free access to goods from West Africa. It’s a trade agreement that protects the West African markets to enable healthy competition and growth, and allows safeguard measures, should anything go wrong,” Young concluded.