At the first ECOWAS Business Forum in Accra on Wednesday, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) warned that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) proposal between developing nations and the EU “could destroy industries in Nigeria, Ghana and other West African countries”.
Ghana could suffer losses amounting to $150 million annually in customs duties if it subscribed to the EPA. MAN also stated that Nigeria could also lose $680 million annually if the agreements were implemented.
Alhaji Bashir Borodo, President of MAN, said the EU proposal to have free trade with ECOWAS at almost zero duty was inimical to the development of the region.
He said: “We are not ready for that now, because if we do that, they (EU) are going to destroy our own industries.
“The EPA proposal would see the increase in internal taxation and Value Added Tax in participating countries to make up for the loss in import duties on the goods which fall within the agreement.”
Borodo called on the members of ECOWAS to negotiate thoroughly and be certain of what the EU proposals entailed before signing the agreement.
Meanwhile, the debate about African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries signing the EPAs is becoming increasingly fervent in anticipation of the 31st December deadline, Sylvanus Nana Kumi, reports from Brussels.
Contrary to Borodo's beliefs, almost every official at the Brussels-based European Commission held the strong opinion that ACP countries would do themselves harm should they refuse to sign the pacts.
Stephen Adams, a senior administrative officer at the EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson's office, said ACP countries like Ghana would derive more benefits from the agreements by consenting to them.
He said the EPAs would enable ACP nation economies to be more competitive as well as attract more investments, among other advantages.
Addressing 10 African journalists at the EU's headquarters in the Belgian capital on Tuesday, Mr. Adams blamed civil society organizations for the negative impression of EPAs in most developing countries.
He explained that the problem with African markets was the insecurity felt by investors on the continent, resulting in the relatively low level of investments.
"By creating clear and transparent environments of investments, you encourage people from other places to come in; and that is the backbone of an economy.
“If ACP countries say they will not sign the agreements, we cannot force them, but we stand by the development goals we aim at achieving," he stated.
Mr Adams said regardless of whether or not ACP nations signed the agreements, the EU would liberalize its market on January 1, 2008, otherwise it could face legal action from some of the least developed non-ACP countries in Latin America.
By Felix Dela Klutse