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), saying it will have a long-term negative impact on the continent’s efforts towards industrialisation and job creation. The ministers spoke during the Extra-ordinary Session of the Conference of African Union Ministers of Trade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday. The meeting was convened to discuss Africa’s common position ahead of the October 1 deadline for signing of the EPA with the 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 (WTO) negotiations, among others.
While reiterating Nigeria’s position on EPA, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, said, “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.”
Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Mr. Robert Sichinga, said he agreed 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.”