FEC approves proposed agreement on African free trade

FILE PHOTO: FEC MEETING: From left: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; President Muhammadu Buhari; Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe and Minister of Stste for Agriculture, Sen Heinekaen Lokpobiri during the Federal Executive Council Meeting in Abuja on Wednesday (20/12/17) /20/12/2017/Callistus Ewelike/NAN

Nigeria is set to sign the framework agreement for the establishment of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The agreement establishing the AfCFTA would flag off the “Single Liberalised Market for Trade in Goods and Services” in Africa.

The AfCFTA is a negotiated rules-based system, to establish the rule of law in trade, deepen and expand intra-Africa trade from its very low base of 14 per cent.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) in its meeting on Wednesday gave the Minister of Trade & Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, the go-ahead to seal the agreement on behalf of Nigeria.

The agreement is expected to be concluded during the forthcoming Extraordinary Meeting of the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government scheduled for Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018.

At the end of the meeting in Abuja, Mr. Enelamah told State House Correspondents that the country stood to gain a lot from the AfCFTA, particularly in terms of export of goods and services from the Nigerian market.

“This is an important agreement. It’s part of our ambitious economic agenda to generate more exports for Nigeria. African market is about 1.2 billion people, while we (Nigeria) are 180 million. We are going into this clearly wanting to improve market access for our products and our people,” Mr. Enelamah said.

Besides, he said Nigeria needed the agreement to help protect her markets from unfair trade practices like dumping, ”smuggling and all the other negative things that impact the economy”.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had in February 2017 given a set of objectives to be built into negotiations for the detailed draft paper and terms of the framework as well as the final implementation strategy.

Besides, the Minister said the president also constituted a negotiating committee, made up of members of the organised private sector and businesses, including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture.

The AfCFTA was established in 2012 by all Heads of State and Government of the AU at their 18th Ordinary Session to implement the AU Agenda 2063 “Vision” for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

Actual negotiations for the AfCFTA commenced in 2015, with Stage 1 covering trade in goods and services, and Stage 2, covering intellectual property, competition policy and investment.

Negotiations on Stage 1 are expected to be concluded in this month in Kigali, Rwanda, where Heads of State and government would “adopt, sign and launch the African Continental Free Trade Area”.

For Nigeria, Mr. Enelamah said the country would gain significantly through the expansion of market access for exporters of goods and services, spur growth and boost job creation.

Besides, he said established rules-based trade governance in intra-African trade would invoke trade remedies as safeguards, anti-dumping and countervailing duties against unfair trade practices, including dumping, trans-shipment of concealed origin of products.

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