Sentiments trail EPA ratification despite EU’s revision of clauses

Michel Arrion, EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS

• Union seeks review of FG’s protectionist stance
Although local producers are kicking against the ratification of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the European Union (EU), and some members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS), have urged government to review its protectionist stance if it desires to benefit from trade ties with the Union.

Having revised some of the clauses relating to market access, the EU and ECOWAS representatives argued that the negative effect of the EPA is exaggerated, and does not give opportunity for appropriate appraisal of the trade deal.

Already, Nigeria’s stance on the EPA has continued to affect the ratification of the trade treaty in the ECOWAS region, and may lead to the termination of the temporary free access to the European Union being enjoyed by other ECOWAS member states.

The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Jacobs, had kicked against the ratification, saying that opening Nigeria’s markets to cheap and sometimes substandard foreign goods is a capitalistic ideology that will not support the employment and poverty exigencies in the country.

However, speaking at a Stakeholders’ forum organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), on the West African-EU EPA deal, its Director-General, Muda Yusuf, noted that dumping of goods is mostly done by countries from the Asian region, adding that the EU remains Nigeria’s biggest trading partner that cannot be ignored.

According to him, the negative effects of the EPA is exaggerated, adding that the proposal should be properly appraised, considering the economic losses the nation is suffering from due to abuse of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) by neighbouring African countries.

Making a case for the EPA, the EU Ambassador/Head of delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Michel Arrion, noted that the EU has no offensive agenda for Nigeria and other countries in the region, adding that other West African countries will appreciate Nigeria’s contribution to the West African regional cohesion.

Arrion, who was represented by the Head of Trade and Economics Section, Filippo Amato, said the fears expressed by local producers and the private sector have been addressed in the trade deal, adding that the Union is not negotiating the deal to compete with the local markets.

He added that Nigeria can take advantage of the rules of origin among other trade instruments to use the EPA to its advantage.

The LCCI President, Dr. Nike Akande, sought government’s intervention in creating an enabling environment for operators to compete favourably in the global markets.

ECOWAS Commissioner, Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Laouali Chaibou, advocated the development of local manufacturers’ capacity to improve their competitiveness to ensure the influx of private investment to the region.

According to him, the offers of market access, use of rules of origin instrument among other trade tools under the EPA can help the region become the production centres for export to Europe if maximised.

Also, the Director of Trade, ECOWAS, Gbenga Obideyi, urged the Federal Government to maximise the use of trade defence measures in the agreement to protect local industries.

The EU had promised to make strong commitments in terms of financial development assistance, as its member states have agreed to provide a minimum of €6.5 billion of trade development assistance every five years till 2035.

“Every five years, we are committed to give grants, development assistance. EU and the 28 member states have agreed to give a minimum of €6.5 billion for every five years. In the last five years it was €8.5 billion. We are very comfortable to provide this development assistance.

“Nigeria is maintaining import bans against ECOWAS. You can do this outside ECOWAS but not within. You are part of the same community and bound by some rules relating to free movement of goods and people. We have no offensive agenda for Nigeria because we believe that Nigeria and ECOWAS are very interesting places where European or other non-European businesses could invest because there is enough room for investment,” Arrion said.

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