President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) poses mixed fortunes to the Nigerian economy.
This comes as he revealed that his government was assiduously working to achieve an economic growth of 2.7 per cent this year.
He dropped the hint while opening the 11th triennial congress of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) via the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha. The president expressed satisfaction with the country’s external reserve of $45 billion.
However, while receiving the report of the committee set up to assess the impact of and readiness for the AfCFTA at the State House, Abuja, the number one citizen explained that the pact that Nigeria envisions was one that would assist the nation to create wealth for investors and contribute to the job creation programme of his government.
He said: “For AfCFTA to succeed, we must develop policies that promote African production among other benefits.
“Africa, therefore, needs not only a trade policy but also a continental manufacturing agenda. Our vision for intra-African trade is for the free movement of made-in-Africa goods.”
He held that, “if we allow unbridled imports to continue, it will dominate our trade. The implication of this is that coastal importing nations will prosper while landlocked ones will continue to suffer and depend on aid.”
Buhari said henceforth, his administration would ensure that all negotiated agreements create business opportunities for African manufacturers, service providers and innovators.
“As I stated during the inauguration of this committee, many of the challenges we face today – whether security, economic or corruption – are rooted in our inability over the years to domesticate the production of the most basic requirements and create jobs for our very vibrant, young and dynamic population,” he added.
The Nigerian leader promised to consider the report of the committee which, according to him, would form part of the consideration in government’s decision on the next steps on the AfCFTA in particular and other broader trade integration subjects.
The committee chairman, Desmond Guobadia, had urged the president to sign the agreement.
He said they proposed policies, programmes, projects and interventions which may position the nation adequately for the AfCFTA.
His words: “Our report shows that on the balance, Nigeria should consider joining the AfCFTA and using the opportunity of the ongoing AfCFTA Phase I negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards required to ensure that our domestic policies and programmes are not compromised.”
Meanwhile, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) had insisted that the Federal Government specifies the protectionist mechanism to check influx of goods that may collapse domestic manufacturing.
For the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), it makes sense to sign the AFCFTA, adding that to influence the structure of the agreement, it is important to be part of it from the beginning.
Its Director-General, Muda Yusuf said: “The agreement is not cast in stone. It should be seen as work in progress. If we can function within ECOWAS, I believe we can function in AFCTA.”
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also called on Nigeria and other African countries to give serious attention to the issue of Rules of Origin (RoO), saying they could “make or break” the AfCFTA.
RoO are the criteria which establish the nationality of a product. The conditions have been used by many African countries to gain preferential treatment while trading with other blocs like the European Union and the United States.
Nigeria’s Chief Trade Negotiator and Director General of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations, Chiedu Osakwe stated that the meeting reiterated and underscored the country’s commitment to free trade, openness to investment and engagement with the regional and global economies.