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EU woos Nigeria with elaborate trade deal

EU woos Nigeria with elaborate trade deal

…As trade volume with Nigeria hits $35bn

The European Union (EU) on Tuesday urged Nigeria to reconsider its position on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to boost trade relations with the EU.

Nigeria has yet to sign the EPA, which was created by the EU to eliminate trade restrictions between it and ECOWAS member states. In 2018, former President Muhammadu Buhari declined to sign the agreement, stating that it would expose the industries and small businesses to external pressures and competition, which could lead to closures and job losses.

Samuela Isopi, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, speaking at the 9th edition of the Nigeria-EU business forum in Abuja, argued that the pact would provide Nigerian businesses with full and immediate access to the EU market, which comprises over 400 million consumers.

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She also stated the readiness of the EU to boost trade relations with Nigeria.

“We are looking at deepening economic ties and promoting additional investments by exploring the potential of a Sustainable Investment Facilitation Agreement”, Isopi said.

“More could be done to boost our trade relations. On our side, we stand ready to engage, should Nigeria – as the only holdout in West Africa – reconsider its position on the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, an instrument in support of economic diversification and local added-value, in line with Nigeria’s industrial ambitions. The EPA would also open up, fully and immediately, access to the EU market, a market of over 400 million consumers”, the ambassador added.

The call for Nigeria to reconsider its position on the EPA comes amid ongoing efforts to strengthen trade ties with Nigeria. Isopi said the Business Forum focuses on fostering concrete investments in Nigeria, in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda and the EU-Nigeria partnership.

She noted that the European Union was by far Nigeria’s largest trading partner with a total trade of almost €35bn in 2023, accounting for about one-third of Nigeria’s foreign trade, and a balance, at over 10 billion euros – in favour of Nigeria.

The ambassador also said the European Union is Nigeria’s biggest foreign investor with a stock estimated at €26bn, representing one-third of Nigeria’s FDI stock.

Isopi added that the EU-Nigeria economic partnership has contributed to employment, through the creation of over 130.000 jobs and skill development, with 6.000 Nigerians on average trained annually.

She further mentioned the first-ever mapping of EU companies present in Nigeria, which found that over 230 companies, from 18 EU Member States are present in Nigeria with France, Germany and the Netherlands making up 60 percent of the companies captured by the survey.

The survey, according to her, also found that the largest sector for EU companies operating in Nigeria is manufacturing which accounts for almost 20 percent of total EU investments in Nigeria, as against the oil and gas sector in the past.

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Manufacturing is followed by professional services, logistics and construction. Extractive industries (oil and gas) represent today less than 10 percent.

Isopi informed that EU companies had a turnover of 4 billion euros in the last fiscal year.

The Nigeria-EU business forum had in attendance, Atiku Bagudu, minister of budget and economic planning of Nigeria, representative of Doris Uzoka-Anite, the

Minister of industry, trade and investment, EU representatives, and other stakeholders. Several other invited government officials were, however not in attendance.

Uzoka-Anite, who was represented by Nura Rimi, permanent secretary of the ministry in her address reiterated the importance of the EU Business Forum to facilitate trade, and investment promotion and to create a healthy environment for businesses to thrive and contribute to sustainable economic growth in both Nigeria and the European Union.

“As we look forward to the future, it is imperative that we work towards addressing challenges and identifying innovative solutions to enhance the business environment. By leveraging what we understand and foster mutual cooperation, we can unlock new opportunities for trade and investment that will benefit our countries, our economies and the livelihoods of our people”, the minister said.