Mr Fillippo Amato, an European Union (EU) official, says the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and ECOWAS will help Nigeria to achieve its diversification drive.
Amato, Counsellor, Head of Trade and Economics Section in EU, told newsmen in Abuja on Friday that the agreement, yet to be signed by Nigeria, would boost its non-oil exports.
“First, all duties on exports from Nigeria to the EU will be brought to zero from the first day of the entry into force of the Agreement.
“Signing the agreement will dramatically reduce the cost of Nigeria’s products exported to the EU thereby making them more competitive.
“Second, duties on imports from the EU of machinery, capital goods, intermediate good (inputs) and raw materials will gradually be removed over a period of 20 years,” he said.
He said machinery, capital goods, immediate goods and raw materials are inputs needed by the Nigerian industries to process and produce their raw materials to finished products.
According to him, reducing duties on such imports will reduce a component of the production costs of the local industries.
Amato added that duties on the import of agricultural products and on most consumer goods which the local industries were able to produce would not be removed under the EPA.
He listed such categories of goods included the textile sector, the automotive sector and the construction sector.
“For these products, Nigeria will still be able to apply duties up to 35 per cent (the highest band of the ECOWAS Common External Tariffs).
“Also, under the EPA, the EU is committed to abolish any form of export subsidy in favour of its agricultural products,” he said.
According to him, the EPA contains a number of safeguard measures (including an infant industry clause) that West Africa can trigger to protect the local industries.
He said the safeguard measures in the EPA would allow the agricultural sector and the local manufacturing sector to be protected from potential competition of goods imported from Europe.
Amato emphasised that the EPA would improve and make more flexible the so-called rules of origin to enable products qualify as Nigerian products when exported to the EU.
He said that products from Nigeria would enjoy duty-free access to EU market.
“This will attract the interest of potential investors who will consider West Africa as a production hub to export products duty-free to Europe.’’
To promote West Africa industrialisation and sustainable economic and social development under EPA, Amato said EU had committed 6.6 billion Euros to fund the first five years of the EPA Development Programme.
This, he said, was aimed at improving basic infrastructure in West Africa (energy, transport, etc.) and the quality of West African goods, to make sure they comply with international standards.
“Similar amounts will be committed by the EU and its member States for each five years cycle of the EPA Development programme at least for the next 20 years.
“In short, the EPA aims at reducing the costs (of imports and exports) for the local industry and to protect sensitive sectors from competition.
It also aimed at improving the quality of West African infrastructure and products through targeted development cooperation projects.
“The EU is the main export destination of West Africa for non-oil products and the EPA aims at increasing the quantity and quality of these exports,’’ he said.