Despite persistent persuasion and juicy offers by the European Union (EU), Nigeria is not in a hurry to sign an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European bloc, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, said.
Speaking at a one-day sensitization seminar on EPA, organized by the EU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Kano, northwestern Nigeria, the minister indicated that the move could be considered when the country is ripe for productive industrialization to export finished products.
The EU and its member countries are doling out 6.5 billion Euros for West Africa’s EPA Development Programme (PAPED) that will run for five years.
However, the Head of EU Delegation in Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Michel Arrion, expressed worry over Nigeria’s delay to sign the EPA, saying: “Nigerian government seems to have some reservation over the signing of the agreement. We are here to dispel this misconception and to put the record straight, not through fear or threats, but to make Nigeria government realize the attendant benefit that it will bring to the economic growth and development of the country through trade facilitation with ECOWAS.”
According to Hajiya Aisha, “Nigeria and Gambia withheld their signatures to the agreement due to some identified issues of national importance that needed to be addressed.”
The minister explained that the delay was not an attempt to undermine the efforts of the ECOWAS Commission as well as the EU on the already concluded EPA, but was rather based on the need to address the economic challenges Nigeria presently faces.
“We need some time to consult further with the relevant stakeholders and agree on the next step. This gathering today is a step towards finalizing Nigeria’s position,” she said. “But it should be noted that trade agreement is too critical to be concluded and signed in a hurry.”
She further underscored the need to create jobs for our people, increase intra-African trade and achieve the regional integration objective.
“Africa is on the rise and it is a very big and strategic market for any trading partner. We should diversify our economies, move away from an export of raw materials by encouraging value-added export through industrialization and have a better share of the global market,” the minister added.