News Ghana can confirm that thirteen (13) out of the 15-member states have appended their signatures to the EPAs.
The EPAs is a package of treaties that will govern bilateral trade between the EU and the ECOWAS.
Meanwhile. by February 2016, West Africa’s economic powerhouse, Nigeria, and two other countries namely, The Gambia and Mauritania have all refused to sign the agreement, close to two years after the negotiations have been concluded.
Interestingly, Mauritania is no longer part of ECOWAS but it was added to the sub-region for the purposes of the agreements, but the refusal of the three countries to sign onto the EPAs has made it impossible for the implementation to begin since the agreements require the signatures of all countries of the region.
Director of Multilateral, Regional and Bilateral Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony Nyame-Baafi, indicated that some of member states were holding consultative meetings at the ECOWAS level aimed at convincing Nigeria, The Gambia and Mauritania to sign. “Mauritania has indicated its readiness to sign and we hope the rest also do same,” he said, expressing his country’s readiness to sign.
On the part of Nigeria, a political Economist from Third World Network (TWN), a civil society organisation, Mr Sylvester Bagooro, explained in a separate interview that Nigeria was unlikely to sign onto the agreements because it wanted to grow its industrial sector by adding value to its raw materials and was, therefore, not likely to sign the EPA.
Sylvester Bagooro said, to build the manufacturing sector, it had to impose taxes and tariffs on the importation of some products in order to protect the local economy and, therefore, did not see the likelihood of Nigeria signing.
According to him, the EU was currently using various means just to get Nigeria on board, including the invitation of the country’s President, Mr Muhammadu Buhari, to address its parliament.
However, speaking to the EU Ambassador to Ghana, Mr William Hanna he explained that this legal obligation resulted from West Africa’s choice to act as a block and that other EPA regions opted for more flexibility and the EU had always respected the partners’ choices.
He said, the EU was still fully committed to the regional EPAs as all of its member states had already signed the agreement since December 2014, adding that it had accomplished all the necessary processes in record time and was currently waiting for the finalisation of the signature process in West Africa.