The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) have commended the Federal Government for not signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pact.
The MAN flawed the current contents of the agreement, noting that it will lead to gross unemployment in the country as most manufacturing companies would collapse if implemented by government.
The President of the association Dr. Frank Jacobs, said that the manufacturers group would not support Federal Government’s adoption and ratification of the AfCFTA agreement until issues of market access and enforcement of rules of origin are addressed.
According to him, the agitation from the private sector was a result of lack of consultation and inclusion of inputs of key stakeholders before Nigeria’s position was presented at the meetings of the African Union-Technical Working Group on CFTA in the build-up to AfCFTA negotiation by Nigeria.
Jacobs told journalists Wednesday that the issues of market access that allows only 10 percent of products to be protected as well as government’s enforcement mechanism in the area of enforcement of rules of origin need to be clearly defined before local producers can support the agreement.
Noting that MAN is not oblivious of the benefits inherent in installing a continental trade agreement like AfCFTA that could improve intra-African trade and enhance economic growth and sustainable development, the industrialist said that Nigeria’s national interest should however be the primary consideration in the decision to sign-on to such an arrangement.
On what should be the alternative to the proposed pact, the manufacturers’ leader urged the government to initiate a process that would enable all stakeholders on the international trade value chain in the country to quickly review the text of the draft AfCFTA agreement and come up with comments on areas that are not in the best interest of the Nigerian economy.
He said: “Government should, as matter of urgency, convene a special meeting of the relevant stakeholders, including experts on trade policy to consider tariff lines rates along the line of efficiency, sectoral and sub-sectoral preferences that would be most beneficial to Nigerian businesses under the AfCFTA dispensation as well as reconsider the national position on EPA vis-a-vis the AfCFTA especially on tariff lines of products on the sensitive/exclusion list, with a view to ensuring that the EU-EPA is not reintroduced through the AfCFTA’s back door.
“Review presentations and prepare a detailed submission for the Government on ways and means of participating in the AfCFTA in a manner that our national interest and that of the budding manufacturing sector are effectively protected”, Jacobs added.
Similarly, the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) pointed out that majority of Nigerians were not acquainted with the provisions of the agreement and its potential impact on their lives and the country’s economy.
The umbrella body of the nation’s traders therefore urged the government to consult extensively and create awareness on the implications of signing the continental trade agreement before its final adoption.
The NANTS President, Barrister Ken Ukaoha, said that it would not be proper for the government to sign an agreement which would affect the livelihood of Nigerians without proper sensitisation.
He explained: “What the President has done is for the interest of the country. In fact, it is for the economic, political and social future of the country. First of all, I am sure that 99 per cent of the 180 million population of Nigeria are not aware of this agreement.
“The same population may not be aware of the content of the agreement. This is the agreement that will touch on their livelihood and their lives on daily bases,” he said. Ukaoha said that the era of top bottom approach in policy and agreement signing was gone, saying “it is no longer admirable at all,” Ukaoha said.
The AfCFTA is part of Africa’s plan to promote intra and inter-regional trade, economic cooperation and partnership on the continent by 2063. It seeks to make Africa the largest free trade area, improve its economies and strengthen its position in global trade.
The AfCTA is expected to create a trade bloc of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion. The agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90% of goods and to liberalize services.
President Buhari had last Sunday canceled his scheduled visit to Rwanda to attend an Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union scheduled for March 21 for the signing of the AfCTA pact.