In an interview with a selected group of journalists on the side of a two-day Regional Technical Workshop on Improved and Facilitated Trade in West Africa, Obideyi explained that three countries were yet to sign the agreements, hence the delay in implementation.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria and The Gambia have still not signed. Mauritania, although not a West African country, was also added to the West African bloc during the negotiations and has also not signed to it yet,” the commissioner disclosed.
According to him, the three countries cited the lack of clarity in the agreement concerning West Africa’s industrialization, which the sub-region has not addressed, as the reason for their delay in signing it.
West Africa accounts for more than 38 percent of total trade between the EU and all African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions. The EU supplies a large part of the equipment that contributes to economic growth and development in the region and is the main export market for West African agricultural and fisheries products.
European annual exports to West Africa are worth approximately 31 billion Euros, while West African exports to the EU account for 37 billion Euros, according to the European Commission.
“These countries have argued that they have invested in the development of their industries but the EPAs agreement could derail that process of industrialization
“They believe therefore that EPA is a threat to local investment and industrialization,” he explained.
When the heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Dakar, Senegal, last Saturday, two of the critical issues on the floor was receiving and discussing the progress report on the EPA, and the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET).
According to Obideyi, although the sub-regional economic bloc commenced its Common External Tariff (CET) regime in January, there were six countries still yet to commence implementation.
As of January, Benin, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Niger and Nigeria started implementation, leaving Ghana, Cape Verde, Liberia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone yet to commence.
Ghana has given February 1 as its commencement date.
The commissioner said the Heads of State had played their part and it was left with the technocrats and the private sector to make the Economic integration work in the sub-region.
Salifou Tieme, Director for Customs for the sub-region, said one of the challenges affecting the trade integration was the inability of the Customs services in the various member-states to exchange information.
This, he noted, was due to the lack of technical and infrastructure capacity of the various customs services in the member-states.
He said the necessary infrastructure and technical capacity needed to be put in place to make way for free flow of information within the customs union so as to enhance free movement of goods and services. Enditem.