A delegation of the European Union and the ECOWAS has urged Nigeria to fully subscribe to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) even as it contains features capable of facilitating an early exit from the current recession in the country.
The EPA is a trade agreement between the ECOWAS 15-member states, the West African Economic and Monetary Union on one part and the European Union member states on the other part.
The heads of state of governments of ECOWAS endorsed the EPA in July 2014, and opened it for signature by member states, but despite being beneficiary to the letters of the EPA, including the E6.5 billion pledge by the EU to support infrastructural development in the ECOWAS member states in the 2015-2020 programming period, Nigeria is one of the two ECOWAS 15-states yet to sign the document.
Speaking during a media parley last weekend in Abuja, a representative of the EU, Mr. Fillipo Amato, expressed surprise that for over two years the EPA document ran into a wave of arguments in Nigeria, denying the people the huge opportunities inherent in the international trade relationship. “All the fear that Nigeria will be flooded with foreign goods is unfounded. EU is concerned about promoting the infrastructural and economic development of the ECOWAS states, and not the other way round.
“Our interest is to promote trade relations between Europe and West Africa. The region on the long run will export more, and this is the more reason why Nigeria should sign the EPA,” Amato said.
In his contribution, the Commissioner, Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Laouali Chaibou, said Nigeria plays a key role in fostering cooperation amongst member states and in deepening of regional integration through both political and economic contributions.
“Nigeria contributes over half of the regional GDP. The country is the principal trading partner for a number of ECOWAS countries, evident by its economic activity. Nigeria banks are already active and growing across the region, investing in industry, manufacturing, services and agribusiness,” he stated.
The officials explained that the key objective of the EPA is to establish an economic and trade partnership aimed at achieving rapid and sustained economic growth, creating employment, eradicating poverty, diversifying the economies of member states while taking account of the different levels of economic development of the regions.
In addition to increasing the volume of regional trade, and encouraging the formation of a unified and efficient regional market in West Africa, the EPA strengthens economic and trade relations between the EU and the ECOWAS on a basis of solidarity and in accordance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations in a way that takes account of the significant difference in competitiveness between the two regions.