ABUJA (Web Content Management Team Report) –
The ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the European Union and the Monetary Union of West Africa has organized a 2-day sensitization workshop from September 6th – 7th 2016 to keep Nigerian media abreast of the conclusions of the negations on the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and West Africa.
The sensitization workshop had as one of its objectives, to create public enlightenment on the status of endorsement of the document by the two partner regions. The workshop which had the International Trade Agreement relating to EPA as its main theme discussed issues pertaining to the role of the media in creating public awareness towards empowering stakeholders and benefactors through proper understanding and engendering virile participation and initialization of the agreements for profound benefits by member states.
Participants at the workshop were tasked to inform the public and member states of ECOWAS about the consequent endorsement and commencement of implementation of the Wet Africa – European Union Economic Partnership Agreement.
According to the release by ECOWAS Commission prior to the workshop, the sensitization was part of the preparatory activities in readiness for the implementation of the EPA. It also indicated that the need for the media to update their knowledge of International Trade Agreements was to ensure the dissemination of factual information and proper communication of its benefits to the public.
“The EPA which has been endorsed by Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS has been signed by all 28 EU Member – States, while only 13 ECOWAS Member States have signed the Agreement. Nigeria, the Gambia and Mauritania are yet to sign, although the later is no longer a member of ECOWAS,” it stated.
“The primary goal of EPA is to promote the deepening of the regional integration process and sustainable economic development in the West African region. The EPA and the National development strategies of the West African region are complementary and mutually supportive without prejudice to their capacity to exercise political options, thus encouraging sustainable development and poverty eradication.”
While delivering his welcome address on the first day of the workshop, the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Richard Young represented by the Head of the Trade and Economics Section, Fillipo Amato said that the workshop aims at providing opportunities for the media to understand International Trade Agreement issues from their own perspectives. He also spoke on the need for West African countries to achieve sustainable growth, saying trade protectionism does not help economics, just as Nigeria’s reliance on imported goods impact negatively on its competitiveness.
Richard Young continued that specialization in the production of the most advantaged products is important, just as trade with neighbours and other continents. He further explained that adopting appropriate policy measures can help to reduce cost in the international market to about 50%.
“The relationship of the EU with Africa has increased access to goods and services. There is however, a challenge from trade representation or delegation from the World Trade Organisation and even though there is presently no duty – free access, it has been beneficial requiring strengthening of standards and respect to rights,” Richard Young said.
“Trade policies have to be favourable, valuable for more peace and mutual interest. With a lot of catastrophes experienced due to migration and the dangers of young Africans taking the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, the need to promote growth and enhance development in Nigeria requires very intense negotiation on the Economic Partnership Agreement.”
Young inferred on access to the European market that restriction to the Nigerian market is about 75% and economic partnership will provide the opportunity for the country to industrialize. He informed that about €11billion a year will be provided in support of development. Adding, a duty – free access to European markets will promote industrialization and add value to the Nigerian economy.
It was his position that technology and science are vital sectors in the promotion of manufacturing. Also, preventing the over – flooding of Nigerian markets with European goods will be afforded through providing opportunities for Nigeria and West Africa to protect its market by producing its own goods for export as well as the lee-way to respond appropriately to market situations.
In his speech at the occasion, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Laouli Chaibou represented by the Director of Trade, Dr Gbenga Obideyi observed that Nigeria has a stake in deepening cooperation in the region as a principal partner in the West African region with a huge banking and manufacturing sectors. Laouli Chaibou said that the political and economic impacts from Nigeria are tied to its large economy which is responsible for over half of the regional GDP. He further revealed that with a population of about 160 million people, Nigeria’s economic activity spans across the entire West African region.
Emphasizing economic development as the showpiece of ECOWAS, Laouli indicated that ECOWAS member – states are members the World Trade Organisation whose activities rule 90% of the global GDP. He insisted that involvement in multilateral trade agreements has included signage to some bilateral agreements as well.
The first regional negotiation for West Africa started in 2003, in which the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the UEMOA Commission on behalf of ECOWAS member -states and Mauritania began the process of negotiating a WTO – Compatible Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. This new agreement was to succeed the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) signed in 2000 and was aimed at promoting the progressive and harmonious integration of West African states into the global economy,” Laouli said.
“The EPA negotiations were characterized as participatory and inclusive with institutional structures such as the Regional Negotiation Committee and the Ministerial Monitoring Committee which had representations from the government, the private sector and civil society established to ensure common regional positions for consultations.”
He stated that as a result of the structures identified, West Africa succeeded in negotiating a balanced trade agreement with a strong development dimension. He also explained that negotiations of the EPA Agreement were concluded on June 30, 2014 with the initialing of an agreed text by West Africa cum European Union chief negotiators. He noted that the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government endorsed the EPA in July, 2014 and opened it for assent by member states. He opined that continuous sensitization of members of the public and stakeholders in the private sector, parliamentarians, civil society and academia has been engaged from its inception to the present.