President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the committee on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), stressing that the nation commits to African economic and social integration governed by rules and with built-in safeguards against injurious practices.
AfCFTA is an important part of the African Union- 2063 Agenda to promote economic and social integration on the continent.
Buhari said the mandate of the members is to support the efforts of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, stakeholder associations and businesses to realize the benefits of AfCFTA, while putting measures to address any threat (to Nigeria’s national interest) that may arise.
He, therefore, maintained that all parties must work together and not allow any loopholes that might prove injurious to the Nigerian economy.
Buhari said: “”We are very hopeful of creating a single African market for ‘Made -in- Africa’ goods and services.
“”This trade, together with free movement of people and capital, will result in faster integration of African economies.
““As a government, we must ensure that Nigeria’s position remains that, such integration must be rules-based with built-in safeguards, against injurious practices.’’
The President added that Nigeria’s approach to the AfCFTA has been very measured and consistent.
“”Our logic was simple: As Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation, we cannot afford to get it wrong.
“”We consulted all key stakeholders. We also conducted a rigorous impact and readiness evaluation.
““It was after these consultations and studies, and satisfactory reports that I signed the AfCFTA Agreement on behalf of Nigeria in July this year.
““We know the benefits and understand the challenges.
“It is clear that, for us to fully benefit from this agreement, we must have an implementation programme that reflects our national trade objectives and development plans.
““This therefore requires aligning, restructuring existing development projects, programme and initiatives. Where there are gaps, we must address them,’’ he said.
The President explained that, already, the government had established the National Action Committee on AfCFTA.
He also disclosed that he had directed all key ministers and senior government officials to provide maximum support to the Committee.
““For us as a government, our expectations from this agreement include job creation for our youths, increased production of our local raw materials and ultimately, exporting quality ‘Made-in-Africa goods’.
“”You are to submit quarterly reports on your progress, and I look forward to receiving your first report in March 2020,’’ Buhari reminded members of the committee.
Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo explained that AfCFTA was being negotiated in two phases.
He said the Phase I agreement comprises of the framework agreement; the protocols for trade in goods and trade in services; and the mechanism for dispute resolution.
“NAN reports that the Phase I agreement came into force on May 30, 2019 , one month after the 22nd African country ratified the agreement.
“”Although, the main Phase agreement has been completed, negotiations are continuing on the annexures and appendices.
“”Notable items being negotiated include among others, the schedule concessions for Goods and Services and the product specific Rules of Origin for the remaining 12 per cent of tariff lines.
““It is estimated that the Schedule of Concessions will become effective in July 2020,’’ Adebayo said.
The minister also revealed that the Phase II negotiations would start in Jan. 2020 and would focus on investment; competition policy; and intellectual property rights.
According to Adebayo, in the preparations and actual negotiations, the relevant entities of government are involved.
He said stakeholders are also consulted and allowed to participate in the negotiations as observers.
“”Nigeria undertook an extensive nationwide stakeholder consultation and rigorous technical studies prior to signing on to the AFCFTA agreement on July 7, 2019.
““From the stakeholder engagements and technical studies, we established that the AfCFTA can facilitate economic growth and diversification through preferential access to Africa’s market.
“”We also established that, in order to get the full benefits of the Agreement, Nigeria needs to: Increase her production and service capacities; and Implement adjustment measures, such as retooling and upscaling of existing businesses.
“The nation also needs to: Resolve bottlenecks in energy, logistic and quality infrastructure; and Improve public service delivery, education and health,’’ Adebayo said.
The Minister said that the mandate of the National Action Committee includes: Conclusion of a common undifferentiated ECOWAS schedule of concessions for trade in goods and trade in services for AFCFTA and Common External Tariff (CET) negotiations.
Also, NAC is mandated to Championing programmes to resolve the critical continental level challenges such as smuggling and abuse of rules of origin, production capacity constraints as well as border and trade rules enforcement.