By NKIRUKA NNOROM
African ministers of trade and experts in trade and regional integration have agreed to boycott planned signing of Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, with European Union. The signing of the agreement is scheduled for October 1, 2014.
Speaking at the Extra-Ordinary Session of the Conference of African Union Ministers of Trade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the ministers said the trade liberalisation deal with the European Union will have a long-term negative impact on the continent’s efforts towards industrialisation and job creation.
The meeting was convened to discuss Africa’s common position ahead of the October 1st deadline for signing of the EPA with EU; the establishment of the Common Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2015; extension of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by the American government for 15 more years and Africa’s strategic response to World Trade Organisation negotiations, among others.
While reiterating Nigeria’s position on EPA, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, said rather than entering into the agreement, African countries should leverage their abundant natural resources and large market to develop industries and create jobs for their people.
“Nigeria’s position on EPA is very clear. Africa is on the rise. It is a very big and strategic market for any trading partner. That is what the EU wants from us but Africa must jealously protect what it has.
“We should leverage our abundant natural resources and large market to develop our industries; create jobs for our people; increase intra-African trade and achieve regional integration. We must not be in a hurry to give away what we have. We must not sign an agreement without first of all carrying out a robust economic analysis of the overall impact the agreement will have on the region, our children and future generations,” Aganga affirmed.
He, however, cautioned against anything that would undermine Africa’s regional integration, saying, “Whilst it is important to look into the October 1, 2014 deadline for the signing of EPA, we should also fully examine the impact of the withdrawal of market access by EU after this deadline. If it is necessary, Africa should look at ways of compensating member countries that will suffer losses as a result of this withdrawal. We must not be in a hurry to sign an EPA if it will not be in the overall best interest of the continent.”
Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Mr. Robert Sichinga, agrred with Nigeria’s position, noting that rather than jeopardising their industrialisation and job creation drive by hastily signing the EPA, African countries should work towards enhancing regional integration and intra-African Trade through value addition of their abundant raw materials, “especially in the areas where they have competitive and comparative advantage.”