Ambassador Michel Arrion, the outgoing Head of the Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, has enjoined Nigeria to reconsider its reluctance to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Arrion gave the advice at the Nigerian-Belgian Chamber of Commerce (NBCIDC) and the Nigerian-Belgian Commercial and Documentation Centre’s June Breakfast Meeting in Lagos with the theme, “Unlocking Nigerian SME Potential to the EU Market”.
The EU Representative said that it was imperative to reconsider the benefits of EPA and join other countries currently taking advantage of the opportunities in the agreement
“We still want Nigeria to revisit her position of signing the EPA. Nigeria need not fear any negative impact of the EPA. We have realised that some Nigerians in positions of authority and businesses are just blocking the process to signing the EPA.
“This is not to say that we are putting pressure on Nigeria to sign the EPA. We know that the EPA would reduce what Nigeria needs to be industrialised,’’ he said.
Arrion also said that it was untrue that the EU banned Nigerian beans from entering its states because Nigeria had not signed the EPA, but that it was also imperative for the country to know that the EPA was meant to foster the integration of the ACP states into the world economy.
Arrion added that such smooth and gradual integration would be with due regard for Nigeria’s political choices and development priorities. He also said that for more Nigerian agricultural produce to gain acceptance in EU states, they must be standardised for the consumption of the Nigerian Diaspora in Europe and the Europeans.
The Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs. Adepeju Adebajo, in a presentation on “Connecting Nigerian Farmers to the EU Market,’’ said that some Nigerian SMEs were already exporting to the EU.
According to her, some Nigerians are currently exporting ewedu and ugu vegetables, garri and other agricultural produce to some European countries.
Adebajo said that Nigeria’s current economic recession should be an opportunity for its SMEs to actively engage themselves in agriculture.
“We must know that agriculture is extremely important for food security, employment generation, foreign exchange reserve and diversification. The economic recession that Nigeria has found herself in is a huge opportunity for our SMEs to participate in harnessing the opportunities in our agriculture sector,’’ she added.
The EPA is a scheme to create a free trade area (FTA) between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). They are a response to continuing criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreements offered by the EU are incompatible with WTO rules.
The EPAs date back to the signing of the Cotonou Agreement. The EPAs with the different regions are at different states of play.
In 2016, EPAs with the three African Regional Economic Communities (East African Community, the Economic Community of West African States and the Southern African Development Community), were to be signed but faced challenges.
The ACP States are a group of 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific that was created by the Georgetown Agreement in 1975. The group’s main objectives are sustainable development and poverty reduction within its member states, as well as their greater integration into the global economy.
All of the member states, except Cuba, are signatories to the Cotonou Agreement with the EU.