There are indications that the European Union will at the end of October 2016 stop the Temporary Free Market Access it granted Nigeria and other ECOWAS member States to export their products to the region. This is because of Nigeria’s failure to sign the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)/European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) over the past six years.
Investigation shows that of the sixteen ECOWAS member countries, twelve have ratified the agreement except Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra-Leone and the Gambia.
Checks show that EU is Nigeria’s biggest trade partners for exports, accounting for 36 per cent, followed by India 15 per cent, Brazil 10 per cent, South Africa 5 per cent and Japan 4 per cent. On the imports side, Peoples Republic of China is the country’s main export partner accounting for 25 per cent, EU 19 per cent, USA 10 per cent and India 5 per cent.
A cursory look at the annual trade data of export goods (oil and non-oil) from Nigeria to the EU, obtained from the Commission, showed that the top ten are oil and gas, cocoa preparations, oil seeds, skins and leather, rubber, copper, fish and crustaceans, including wood and wood charcoal.
EU Ambassador/Head of EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Michel Arrion, disclosed 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 as they need the EPA to retain their EU access after October 2016. According to him, in a move to aid the ratification of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) by West African countries, especially by Nigeria and Gambia, the European Union (EU) had announced plans to spend at least 6.5 billion euros every five years beginning from 2015-2019, as well as during the transition period of 20 years till 2035.
The EU urged the Federal Government to review its protectionist policies in the interest of the region as non-ratification of the EPA by Nigeria may affect ratification of the trade treaty in the ECOWAS region, as well as terminate the temporary free access to the European Union being enjoyed by the country and other ECOWAS member States.
According to the EU, the EPA has no hidden agenda; rather the benefits of the trade deal should be properly appraised by stakeholders.
Arrion said EU will be making strong commitments in terms of financial development assistance, saying that the EU and its member States have all agreed to provide a minimum of 6.5 billion euros 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 euros for every five years. In the last five years it was 8.5 billion euros.
We are very comfortable to provide this development assistance. He assured that the EU will not invade the West African market with products that could compete with domestic products of what Nigeria and other countries in the region would be producing, pointing out that the EU has removed all its export subsidies to the West African market.
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