By Vivian Bellonwu*
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, thank you for honoring our invitation to this policy conversation, and permit me to stand on the already established protocol.
Like many organizations and interests groups in this hall today, we were shocked when the issues of signing the EPA came up again this year. As an organization, we felt that matter had been concluded and that Nigeria’s rejection was final. Obviously it wasn’t. Nigeria is again faced with the prospect of ratifying an economic partnership agreement which the majority believe spells doom for the country.
Social Action’s response to this new EPA threat was to begin a research into the pros and cons of the EPA. We have carefully looked at the implication of the EPA on all facets of social life in Nigeria; our findings are contained in this policy brief which we are presenting here for the first time.
Distinguished guests, it is important for us to reexamine the immediate events that have led to the resurgence of this debate.
In response to pressures at the 49th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS for Nigeria to sign the European Union inspired West Africa Economic Partnership Agreement- better known as ECOWAS–EPA, the federal government declared that it will delay the ratification while continuing to consult with Nigerian citizens and other stakeholders. Previously, the government of former president Goodluck Jonathan had refused to sign the same agreement. The EPA aims to remove trade barriers between the European member state and ECOWAS member states and promises economic benefits for developing countries such as Nigeria.
How true are these claims?
Nigerian manufacturers, civil society actors and trade experts have raised red flags against the deal which some describe as slavery, citing the imbalanced benefit to European producers having unfettered access to the Nigerian market over local industries. In an economic partnership agreement where trade restrictions and barriers are removed, it means local producers are left to compete with their counterparts in the European Union.
How will the Economic Partnership Agreement affect manufacturing in Nigeria? How will it affect small businesses? What will be the effect on the agricultural sector and on farmers? How will it affect employment and jobs? Between the European Union and Nigeria, who is better positioned to benefit from the EPA?
This roundtable meeting today is designed to share perspectives on the desirability or otherwise of getting into a free trade deal with the European Union. It is expected that the critical stakeholders here who will be most directly affected by any such EPA deal, express their perception of it and recommendations which will be captured in a communiqué that will be widely publicized and delivered to the relevant government agencies.
Permit me to end this brief message of welcome by telling you what this briefing has not addressed. The recent vote by Britain to exit the European Union will severely affect any planned EPA with Nigeria. How much this planned exit will affect Nigeria negatively or positively is still not very clear. This roundtable will be a great opportunity to also touch on this important subject.
Once again thank you very much for honoring our invitation and we wish you fruitful discussions.
*Vivian Bellonwu is head, Social Action, Abuja, Nigeria. She read this welcome address at the Stakeholders Roundtable on the EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreements on August 16, 2016, in Abuja Nigeria.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.