President Muhammadu Buhari wednesday has announced his preparedness to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement following approval by Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries (LCCI).
The decision to sign the agreement is also in accordance with recommendations of the Presidential Committee on the Impact and Readiness Assessment of AfCFTA.
MAN and LCCI had stood with him in his objection to the agreement on the ground that it might open up the Nigerian market to imported goods at the detriment of the domestic producers.
A statement by a presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari would be signing phase one of the agreement while attending the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and 12th Extraordinary Summit on AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger Republic in a few days’ time.
According to the statement, countries which signed the first level of the agreement would then go into country level discussions leading to treaties after safeguards are agreed to.
Shehu recalled how Buhari, while receiving the report last week, made it clear that the federal government would be seeking to include terms that engender the development of 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.’ That is, goods and services made locally with dominant African content in terms of raw materials and value addition.
“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 nations will continue to suffer and depend on aid,” the president had stated.
However, after months of consultations, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), yesterday endorsed the decision by the federal government to sign the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Top officials of MAN and the LCCI as well as analysts that spoke in separate interviews with Nigeria joining the continental trade deal would provide opportunity for the country to contribute in strengthening the agreement.
This is just as Moody’s, one of the leading global rating agencies, in the note to THISDAY said as the largest African economy, Nigeria’s membership of the African Continental Free Trade Area would play a key part in the trade bloc reaching its maximum potential.
The presidency had yesterday said on its Twitter handle: “Nigeria is signing the AfCFTA Agreement after extensive domestic consultations, and is focused on taking advantage of ongoing negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards against smuggling, dumping and other risks/threats.
“Let me state unequivocally that trade is important for us as a nation and to all nations. Economic progress is what makes the world go around. Our position is very simple; we support free trade as long as it is fair and conducted on an equitable basis.”
The AfCFTA aims to eliminate tariffs between member states, creating a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of more than $2.2 trillion.
Apart from Nigeria, only Eritrea and Benin have chosen not to join the zone.