Nigeria clarifies reasons for not endorsing EU-ECOWAS EPA

15 April 2014

On 29 March Nigeria tabled their concerns during the Economic Community of West African State summit in the Ivorian capital of Yamoussoukro clarifying reasons why the country did not endorse the EU-ECOWAS EPA.

"Nigeria raised 10 objections to what was presented to us and the Summit of Heads of State ratified it" declared the Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga.

Though the West African leaders endorsed, "in principle", the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Nigeria is among the countries with lingering concerns on potential adverse economic impacts of the trade pact on their industries.

Aganga explained that certain provisions of the agreement were not in the best interest of the nation's economy.

Under the proposed EPA West African countries will gradually liberalise 75 percent of their trade over a 20-year transition period.

"Nigeria is the biggest country in the ECOWAS and we are already producing some of those goods that they want us to liberalise," Olusegun Aganga said last week, in comments reported by Premium Times Nigeria.

"What this means is that, not now, but from 2025 to 2026, based on the items that have included and excluded, there will be significant loss of revenue to the government, loss of jobs, investment" he added.

The minister explained that, given Nigeria's current condition as an import-dependent economy, it would be counter-productive to completely open its doors for imports without first of all developing its industrial sector to compete globally.

Nigeria's industrial development plan

Early this year Nigeria launched two programmes namely, the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan and the National Enterprise Development Programme with a view to transforming the nation's industrial landscape to boost development. For Aganga, ratifying the EU-ECOWAS EPA would be a contradiction to these programmes.

While launching these programmes in February this year, President Goodluck Jonathan said "NIRP is the flagship industrialisation programme ever embarked upon by this country", touting it able to "fast-track industrialisation, accelerate inclusive economic growth, job creation, transform Nigeria's business environment and stop the drain on [the country's] foreign reserves caused by importing what can [be] produced locally."

At the end of the ECOWAS Summit, West African leaders urged their chief negotiators - the presidents of the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) - to resolve the remaining technical questions over the next two months, in order for both sides to sign the deal.

The two negotiators will establish a committee of representatives from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Senegal to revisit these issues and make proposals for leaders to review.

Nigeria‘s new position as Africa's leading economy

Whilst the outstanding issues raised on the EPA by Nigeria remain to be ironed out, the country assumed new feet on 6 April as Africa's largest economy and 26th globally, after reassessing the country's economy that almost doubled its GDP.

Observers have been wondering whether countries in the region will follow Nigeria and refuse to sign the agreement ultimately or if they will go ahead without Nigeria.

Sources: Reuters - SUMMIT-West African economies need integration -Ghana president, 07 April; Allafrica - Africa: Nigeria 'Overtakes' South Africa As Continent's Largest Economy; Vanguard - EU/ECOWAS trade liberalisation agreement not good for Nigeria, Aganga, 1 April;  Thisdaylive - Jonathan launches industrial revolution plan, 12 February.

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