The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, has said that the delay in signing of Economic Partner Agreement, EPA, by Nigeria is not an attempt to undermine the efforts of the ECOWAS commission as well as the EU on the already concluded EPA, but rather based on the need to address the economic challenges Nigeria is presently facing.
Speaking on Tuesday in Kano ,during a one-day sensitization seminar on EPA organized by the European Union, EU, and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, held at the Grand Central Hotel, She said “Nigeria and Gambia withheld their signatories to the agreement due to some identified issues of national importance that needed to be addressed.”
According to the minister “We need some time to consult further with the relevant stakeholders and agree on the next step, while our gathering today is a step forward towards finalizing on Nigeria’s position,” adding that trade agreement is too critical to be concluded and signed in a hurry.
“It became imperative that we reflect deeply on the trade liberalization deal with the EU and its long-term impact on the continents efforts towards industrialization and job creation,” pointing out that, “we need to leverage our abundant natural resources and large market to develop our industries.”
She however emphasized the need to create jobs, saying and increase intra-Africa trade.” Africa is on the rise and it is a very big and strategic market for any trading partner.”
She added: “We should diversify our economies, move away from export of raw materials by encouraging value-added export through industrialization and have a better share of the global market.”
Speaking at the occasion , the Head of EU delegation in Nigeria and ECOWAS, Michel Arrion who expressed worry over the delay in signing the EPA by Nigeria, said that, “Nigerian government seems to have some reservation over the signing of the agreement, adding that ”We are here to dispel this misconception and to put the record straight, not through fear or threats, but to make Nigerian government realize the attendant benefit that it will bring to the economic growth and development of the country through trade facilitation with ECOWAS,”
The Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion of the ECOWAS commission, Kalilou Traore said 20 countries have already signed the EPA, except Nigeria and Gambia.
The EU and its member states have committed to jointly fund the development dimension of EPA for at least 20 years through liberalization of trade in West Africa and to also improve the subsidy of processed products for export.
He added that already, 6.5 billion Euros has been set aside to support West Africa’s EPA Development Programme for the next five years.