National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) on Monday said the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations had created some reliefs that could promote regional economic integration in the ECOWAS sub-region.
The President of NANTS, Mr Ken Ukaoha, told newsmen in Abuja that prior to the EPA negotiations, the West African region had gone comatose, in terms of integration, â€œas nothing appeared to be working, except wars and conflict resolutionâ€.
The EU-West Africa negotiations on EPA was launched in Cotonou on Oct. 6, 2003 culminating in the adoption of a â€œRoad Mapâ€ in Accra on Aug. 4, 2004 for the negotiations that would allow goods from EU market more access to the West African market.
â€œTo us, the EPA has brought some good outcomes in West Africa. In all honesty, we can attest to the fact that prior to the EPAs, the West African region had gone into comatose, in terms of integration,â€ Ukaoha added. He noted that although the negotiations were still on, due to some contentious issues that had to be resolved, the EPAs had â€œresurrected the reality of regional economic integrationâ€.
â€œIt is indeed to the credit of the EPA negotiations that West Africa has witnessed an increasing convergence of member statesâ€ macro-economic policies, including advanced work on a Common External Tariff (CET),
The drive for the actualisation of the implementation of ECOWAS free movement protocol, the common agricultural policy, common monetary policy drive, regional competition and investment policies for common market operations, and others were all geared toward regional integration,â€ he added.
Ukaoha, who is also the Vice-Chairman of Nigeriaâ€s Technical Committee on EPA, however, decried the discordant tunes and near confrontations which showed a serious misconception and misrepresentation of NANTSâ€™ stands on EPA.
He said the Cotonou Agreement, the joint report of the African Pacific and Caribbean (ACP-EC) joint ministerial meeting on the EPAs as well as the joint West Africa-EU Road Map, outlined some general objectives and guidelines upon which the West Africa-EU EPA negotiations should be based.
Ukaoha said the EPA negotiations should be aimed at eradicating poverty in a manner consistent with the sustainable development of the region, in accordance with WTO rules on Free Tread Agreement(FTA). He said it should also strengthen regional integration initiatives in West Africa, based on priorities determined by the region.
Very unfortunately, the EPAs negotiations prior to 2008 did not reflect any of the afore-stated principles nor contemplated a developmental dimension for the developing ACP countries,â€™â€™ he said