Amazing story (2): Nigeria
Two African countries -- Nigeria and Gabon -- were both told this month that they could not benefit from a scheme known as GSP Plus, under which developing countries are allowed to sell goods on the EU's markets without having to pay duties. Eligibility for the scheme is conditional on respect for 27 international agreements dealing with human rights, with a particular emphasis on labour standards. In both cases, the countries had ratified 26 of the conventions. [...]. The rigid application of the rules in the cases of the two countries appears to contrast with the leeway that the Commission has shown to Colombia.
Europe applied 'Double Standards on Trade'
By David Cronin, IPS
Double standards are being applied in the way that the European Union awards trade preferences to poor countries, an African exporters grouping has alleged. Two African countries -- Nigeria and Gabon -- were both told this month that they could not benefit from a scheme known as GSP Plus, under which developing countries are allowed to sell goods on the EU's markets without having to pay duties. Eligibility for the scheme is conditional on respect for 27 international agreements dealing with human rights, with a particular emphasis on labour standards. In both cases, the countries had ratified 26 of the conventions. Nigeria was rejected by the European Commission for not yet placing an agreement against genocide on its statute books, while Gabon was rejected because it had not yet fully signed up to a convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the minimum age for granting employment.
The rigid application of the rules in the cases of the two countries appears to contrast with the leeway that the Commission has shown to Colombia. Despite receiving official complaints from labour rights activists about the systematic persecution of trade unionists in Colombia, the Commission decided to extend until 2011 its trade preferences to the Latin American country. Whereas Nigeria has refused to sign a free trade or economic partnership agreement (EPA) with Europe, Colombia's right-wing government is involved in talks with the Union aimed at clinching such a deal. Ken Ukaoho, a spokesman for the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), alleged that his country is being punished for declining to sign the free trade agreement sought by the EU during 2007.
Nigeria's stance led the EU to impose extra duties of 4.3 percent and 6.3 percent on Nigerian exports of cocoa butter and coca liquor respectively. With 95 percent of Nigeria's cocoa exports destined for the Union, the increased levies cost the country about five million dollars by end of March this year. Many beverage manufacturers using cocoa have relocated their production from Nigeria to Ghana. Ukaoho said that the EU's decisions made a mockery of official assurances that it would demonstrate flexibility towards Africa in trade negotiations and that the economic and social development needs of particular countries would be taken into account. He argued that it is wrong to deny GSP Plus status to Nigeria on the basis that it is not yet enforcing the genocide convention, noting that the Nigerian government has pledged its support for this convention and intends to ratify it in the near future. It is illustrativ e, he noted, that the trade preferences have been withheld from two African applicants but granted to 16 other countries outside that continent. "This goes beyond double standards," he said. "It shows you that the EU has a colonial mentality towards Africa."
A Commission official dealing with trade issues insisted, however, that his institution has been "even-handed and consistent in applying the criteria for countries to benefit from GSP Plus." Unlike Nigeria and Gabon, Colombia has ratified all 27 of the conventions concerned, the official said. (…) Nigeria has been one of the most rigid opponents of the EPAs, which the Commission has been trying to conclude with almost 80 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Less than half of the ACP countries signed accords by an end of 2007 deadline, and in most cases these were described as 'interim' deals confined to trade in goods. Negotiations are continuing with many countries to try to widen their scope. Elisabeth Tankeu, the commissioner for trade and industry in the African Union, said that these agreements are the "products of a process unequal bargaining", with the European side pressuring the ACP countries into accepting them. In an article in the Geneva-based publication Trade Negotiations Insight, she argued that the interim accords will not help to reduce poverty in Africa. Not enough aid is being offered by Europe to ensure that Africa can adapt to and ultimately benefit from trade liberalisation.
"Unfortunately, these critical issues are yet to be seriously dealt with in the EPA negotiations," she said. "The request of African countries that the development dimension of EPAs be adequately considered through the inclusion of binding commitments on additional resources has been largely ignored." (END/2008)
Nigeria: EU Denies Accusation of Forcing EPA
The European Union yesterday denied the accusation leveled against it that a decision had been taken to force Nigeria to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). A statement from the Delegation of the European Commission in Abuja titled: Nigeria and the General System of Preferences (GSP+) Debate", stated that, the accusation was false.The GSP + offers additional trade preferences to the standard GSP scheme to vulnerable countries that ratify and effectively implement a broad number of international conventions in the fields of human rights, core labour standards, sustainable development and good governance.According to the statement, Nigeria, Pakistan and Gabon have not been granted the GSP+ preferences for not meeting all the criteria required."Nigeria has not yet ratified the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was one of the core human rights Conventions required."Nigeria also did not provide sufficient information concerning relevant domestic legislation and measures to implement all the conventions effectively. Based on this, the Commission was obliged to conclude that Nigeria does not currently meet the GSP+ eligibility criteria," it stated.It further explained that Nigeria would have another opportunity to apply for the GSP+ by April 30, 2010, adding that new GSP regulation envisaged that countries that were unable to meet the criteria could join midway after regularising the outstanding issues."
The decision on Nigeria's application for GSP+ is based solely upon the criteria of vulnerability, ratification and effective implementation of the 27 conventions, and the commitment made to comply with the monitoring and review as stated by the EU regulation," it pointed out.The statement further explained that the EU's intention was not to force any country, let alone Nigeria, into signing the agreement, rather it was engaged in an equal partnership with Africa." What partner would one day engage in an equal partnership and the next day "emasculate or subdue" its partner?,", it asked, adding that "the decision on whether to sign any agreement, including the EPA, lies solely with the Nigerian authorities and the EC respects this decision entirely," it added. (NAN).
Nigeria gets 600 million euros EU grant for trade and regional integration
African Press Agency
The European Commission (EC) will give Nigeria 600 million euros to assist it in the areas of trade and regional integration, the head of the EC delegation to Nigeria, Mr. Dennis Theulin said here Friday. The grant, which will be formally signed in June 2009, is part of the European Economic Fund (EEF) which was designed to assist Nigeria in good governance and to ensure peace reigned in the Niger Delta, Theulin told the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa, Friday in Abuja. Theulin, who leads an EC trade delegation said 50 percent of Nigeria’s total import comes from Europe and that the grant from the Union was “expedient putting into consideration the role of Nigeria as a key player in ECOWAS’s regional development and integration.”
The grant, he said created easy access into the European market for Nigeria through the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with its non-oil export products. Udenwa said the grant would be applied to stimulate activities in non-oil exports and to generate more opportunities in the country’s industrial sector. He urged the EC to assist ECOWAS with technical support and capacity building and to assist its integration process to make the region more competitive in the global market.