Business Day | 7 September 2016
EU to kick-start EPA in 13 West African countries despite Nigeria’s resentment
European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria on Wednesday disclosed that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will fully kick-start in 13 West African countries that have signed the pact, on the 1st October 2016, despite the resentment of Nigeria.
Nigeria, The Gambia and Mauritania are the three West African countries that are yet to sign the EPA, according to the delegation.
Fillipo Young, EU’s Deputy Head of Delegation who disclosed this during the last session of the Media held in Abuja, noted that the EU will not hesitate to withdraw the free access to European market enjoyed by the resenting countries.
He further explained that the £6.5 billion support facility for infrastructural development of the 16 ECOWAS countries was a grant not a loan, adding that the facility will be reviewed every five years when the pact is to be reviewed.
While responding to question on the impact of the Britain’s referendum to pull out of EU, Young who explained that “UK is still part of the EU” however argued that the EU still has 27 members on board despite Britain’s referendum.
Young who stressed that Britain participates actively in all the EU’s regular meetings and activities in Nigeria, explained that the referendum to pull out of EU cannot take effect until the UK activates Article 50 of the EU partnership agreement.
He added that the UK has to renegotiate it’s trade agreements with the rest of the world when it finally pulls out of the EU, noting that the exit of the UK “is not going to affect the EPA negotiation but the issue is how the UK is going to be affected,” Young pondered.
The EU’s Deputy Head of Delegation who expressed concern over the misconception on the EPA negotiation/agreements in Nigeria, explained that EU has been active in development support to Nigeria over several decades.
Young who stressed that there are ample provisions in the EPA that protect ECOWAS and EU countries, assured that all the contentious issues such as dumping have been adequately addressed.
He also applauded Federal Government on its tax reform as part of efforts aimed at boosting the revenue base of the country, adding that the move will help in financing infrastructural projects.
Giving a breakdown of the EPA Development Programme (EPAPD), Kolawole Sofola, Principal Programme Officer (Multilateral Trade Directorate of Trade) explained that the fund will help to diversify and increase production capacities, trade related assistance and infrastructure of participating countries.
According to him, some of the priority projects enlisted by Nigeria to be funded through the EPAPD between 2015 and 2021 include: Mambilla Hydroelectric power project for which £2.8 billion was proposed as well as £150 million direct support to companies; £31 million for tax reforms; £20 million for monitoring and evaluation of EPA.
He added that there will be subsequent cycle of funding for the duration of liberalisation of 20 years.
In his presentation, Gbenga Obideyi, ECOWAS Director of Trade assured that the agitation over subsidisation of agricultural products and counterfeiting by EU countries has been adequately taken care of (in Article 2 of the EPA) in response to the protest negotiators from West African countries.