Discussions over the EPA were delayed in 2012 as fears that lifting tariff barriers could crush budding industries unable to cope with European imports. This then prevented the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) from concluding on the agreement.
“We spent the last four or five days, with our colleagues in ECOWAS in Cote d’voire looking at an agreement that had been signed by ECOWAS. The whole intention was to endorse it but when we looked at the whole agreement, Nigeria’s view was that ECOWAS was not ready to sign that agreement,” Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga told CNBC Africa.
This year, Nigeria barred its smaller West African neighbours from accepting the EU’s terms of agreement and at the meeting that ended yesterday, Nigeria vehemently expressed concerns about the countries in the region opening their economies to free trade with the EU. Thus, other West African leaders failed to agree, ending the decade long talks once again.
“We looked at it and we came up with 10 points that had to be addressed before any endorsement. The first point is the fact that when we ran our model, using the market access of the classification of the industries or sectors that will be liberalised we found that based on the model, which is an ECOWAS model, it will lead to significant losses in government revenue,” he explained.
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“So it was important that those 10 [points] that were raised by Nigeria and some other members of states had their reservations as well. If we were to go together, as we all want to, if we want to see ourselves as a region that wants to integrate our economies together, it became important that we saw it as one and we reacted to it as one block.”
Aganga believes that, Nigeria and the other ECOWAS countries have to negotiate with not just Europe but India, China, America and other international countries.
“We have to negotiate an agreement that works for ECOWAS, that works for Nigeria and the countries in ECOWAS. Once we have an agreement that addresses our needs, that does not undermine the regional economic integration that does not undermine the regional aspiration to become an industrialised region,” he said.
In February 2014, Nigeria launched its Industrial Revolution Plan with its core aim to change the country from an importer of most goods to a manufacturing nation that could at least meet some of its domestic needs.
“We believe firmly that in those 15 sectors, where Nigeria can be number one in Africa and in the top 10 global players, it’s important that we are able to develop those industries. It’s important that we do not create a situation where Nigeria and the other ECOWAS countries would become and remain import dependent,” he added.
According to President Goodluck Jonathan, the plan will boost the annual revenue to be earned per annum by Nigerian manufacturers up to five trillion naira and set a new stage of industrial micro, small and medium enterprises in the West African state.