The federal government and the European Union (EU) are working together to promote the provisions of the West Africa-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that will see Nigeria enhance its drive to diversify its economy and attract foreign direct investment (FDI), THISDAY has learnt.
The Ambassador of the EU to Nigeria and West Africa, Mr. Michel Arion, on Thursday at the EU-West Africa EPA conference on increased opportunities for trade and investments, announced that a meeting between the EU and the federal ministries of foreign affairs, interior and trade, where varied issues on the subject were discussed, was just concluded yesterday in Brussels, with the leaders of the three ministries in attendance.
Arion emphasised that the fears being expressed over the EPA were completely non-existent and based on unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
He noted that after the meeting in Brussels, the EU and the federal government agreed to work on development issues of migration, economic emancipation and security enhancement.
According to Arion, “Well, indeed the EPA will reduce the import duties on importation from Europe on a very progressive basis over a period of 20 years. But the first period of five years, we have agreed that the import duties will be reduced on machineries and industrial equipment and basic raw materials.
“Precisely, it will contribute to the industrial policy of Nigeria and other countries in West Africa. So by doing that we are doing two things; we are certainly helping the economy to diversify, in particular in the agricultural sector, to really foster agribusiness and agric transformation and we are also attracting European investors who will come here and set up businesses in order to take advantage of the EPA and export finished goods from Nigeria to Europe with attendant flow of foreign exchange into the country.”
Also speaking at the event, the Director of Trade, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Dr. Sani Labaran, who represented the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Aminu Aliyu Bisala, noted that
the EPA as designed is aimed at establishing an economic and trade partnership to achieve and sustain economic growth that creates employment and eradicates poverty.
He however stressed that anything short of this would therefore be at variance with this government’s policy thrust.
According to him, “The stakeholders need to be sensitised on this core objective in order to make robust inputs towards the achievement of this laudable objective.
“This dialogue must be regular and sustained with a view to reaching consensus on the subject matter in order to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome for the parties.
“Government in recent time have been engaging EU on this matter and have just conluded Bilateral dialogue on trade and investment including the EPA in Brussels yesterday.
“The government on its part is poised to frontally address the challenges to doing business and infrastructural gaps in order to make production and businesses competitive. You will all agree that energy situation has improve of recent which is a demonstration of government commitment to addressing the supply side constraints faced by the private sector.
“Finally, I wish once again to thank the EU for this initiative which the government commends and wish to further strengthen by organising similar stakeholder dialogues on the subject of discourse in order to reach a consensus on the way forward.”