ABUJA (Industry, Trade and Investment Ministry Report) - The African Ministers of Trade and Experts in Trade and Regional Integration have aligned with Nigeria's position on the trade liberalisation deal with the European Union under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The Ministers, who spoke during the Extra-Ordinary Session of the Conference of African Union Ministers of Trade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, inferred that the trade liberalization deal will have a long-term negative impact on the continent's efforts towards industrialisation and job creation.
According to the Ministers, the meeting was convened to discuss Africa's common position ahead of the October 1st deadline for signing of the EPA with the EU as well as the establishment of the Common Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2015; the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by the American Government for fifteen more years and Africa's strategic response to the World Trade Organisation negotiations, among others.
While reiterating Nigeria's position on EPA, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga said that Nigeria's position on EPA is very clear that Africa is on the rise. He described the country as a very big and strategic market for any trading partner, noting that it is what the EU wants from Africa, 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 which the agreement will have on the region, our children and future generations," he pointed.
Also speaking, the Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Robert Sichinga expressed accord with Nigeria's position, noting that rather than jeopardize their industrialisation and job creation drives by hastily signing the EPA, African countries should work towards enhancing regional integration and intra-African trade through value-addition to their abundant raw materials, especially in those areas where they have competitive and comparative advantage.
"Just like Nigeria has pointed out, before we sign the EPA, we should consider the impact on our children and the future of the continent in terms of industrialisation, job creation and regional integration. I want to state that as long as we have not appended our signatures to the agreement, there is no agreement. Also, I believe that it is better not to sign an agreement at all than to sign a bad one," he said.
The African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Fatima Haramin in his contribution, accepted that signing the EPA would have a negative impact on Africa's industrialisation, job creation and the regional integration of African countries.
Fatima Haram attested as Nigeria's Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga pointed out that industrialisation is an issue that is very critical to the economic and political survival of African countries. He averred that if African countries sign the EPA as it is now, it would be difficult for them to integrate because of different custom area.
He expressed the need to be realistic in looking at statistics as the population of African countries grows very rapidly. He stated from the statistics that more than 50 percent of African population is between 18 and 30 years. Adding, if African countries sign the EPA, it would be difficult to create the jobs required for the growing population and difficult to stop the illegal migration of its youths to the developed countries.
In his remarks, the Minister of Trade and Private Sector Promotion in the Republic of Niger, Alma Oumarou observed that there is need for African countries to realistically evaluate the impact of EPA before signing. "We support the position of Nigeria on EPA and should also take a cue from what they have done in terms of carrying out a study on the impact assessment of the implications of signing the EPA," he said.
Olusegun Aganga further stressed the imperative in doing nothing that would undermine Africa's regional integration. He also stated that whilst it is important to look into the October 1, 2014 deadline for the signing of EPA, African nations should also fully examine the impact of the withdrawal of market access by the EU after this deadline.
He disclosed that if it is necessary, Africa should look at ways of compensating the member-countries that will suffer losses as a result of this withdrawal; indicating that Africa must not be in a hurry to sign an EPA if it will not be in the overall best interest of the continent," he said.