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EU ambassador questions Nigeria’s non-signing of EPA to access €37bn export market

Mitchel Arrion

Mitchel ArrionAmbassador of the European Union (EU) to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mitchel Arrion, on Wednesday in Abuja, questioned Nigeria’s decision not to sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) long after the initiative was formally launched in February 2014, after over 10 years of negotiations.

European annual exports to West Africa are worth approximately €31 billion, while West Africa’s exports to the EU account for €37 billion, a situation Arrion said would benefit Nigeria immensely, especially if the nation’s transparency image was considered improved in the eyes of the international community.

EPAs are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners engaged in regional economic integration processes, aimed at promoting trade and investment, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

The EPAs intend to support trade diversification by shifting ACP countries’ reliance on commodities to higher-value products and services, especially at a time Nigeria is desperately finding ways to move away from overreliance on oil in spite of its falling prices and lower revenues for the country.

For agricultural products or finished consumer goods that are currently produced in the region or for which the region plans to develop production capacity, West Africa will not need to reduce its import duties.

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The market access offer for West Africa liberalises 75 percent of tariff lines only at the end of the transition period, meaning that 20 years after the entry into force of the EPA, 25 percent of tariff lines will remain the same as for all third world countries.

According to data from the European Commission, West Africa accounts for more than 38 percent of total trade between the EU and all the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.

Trade with ACP countries represents more than 5 percent of EU imports and exports, with Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria accounting for 80 percent of West Africa’s exports to the EU.

The EU is the main destination for agricultural and transformed goods from ACP partners, but commodities like oil still form a large part of ACP-EU trade.