The minister asked ECOWAS countries to promote industrialisation.
The Federal Government has restated its commitment to work with the other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to achieve regional economic integration. The government, however, said there should be some measure of flexibility in the adoption and implementation of trade liberalization policies to protect local industries and deepen industrialisation in the continent.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, said there was need to design and adopt a tariff regime that would support industrialisation and ultimately reduce member countries’ dependence on imports.
Mr. Aganga said at the ECOWAS Trade Ministers’ conference that deliberations on the adoption of the Common External Tariff (CET) and the Economic Partnership Agreement, in Abuja on Friday, adding that within the ECOWAS, political integration has been achieved; and to achieve economic integration, Nigeria recognises the need to work together with other ECOWAS member countries.
While negotiating the CET and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Nigeria must also take into cognizance the need to industrialise the country in order to create jobs for our people, pointing out that Nigeria had huge potentials, given its huge population and natural resources which it must leverage on to industrialize and grow her economy, especially in those areas where it has comparative and competitive advantages.
“This is in line with our Industrial Revolution Plan, which is based on areas where we have the potential of becoming Number one in Africa, and top 10 in the world,” the minister said.
“So, we cannot just pull our walls down and allow the importation of everything into our country when we have the ability to produce them. We need to design a CET that will be driven by a vision for industrialising the region in the nearest future through reduction of our dependence on imports,” he added.
Mr. Aganga said Nigeria would canvass for flexibility in the implementation of CET to enable member states to successfully carry out their ongoing industrialisation plans, pointing out that Nigeria was seeking a transition to CET, with the principle being to give some additional flexibility to member states to pursue ongoing industrial plans within a time frame.
A specific period, he said, was required to cap 4 per cent instead of 2.5 per cent as currently proposed, adding that without adequate flexibility in the tariff regimes for these sectors, there was a risk that these industries may go into distress, despite government support over the years.
“The specific period will be for a maximum of 10 years, depending on the since five years as currently being proposed.
“Article 3(2) concerning the temporary Import Adjustment Tax, he said, should accordingly be amended, while the maximum Supplementary Protection Tax should be 70 per cent in addition to CET applied rate (excluding the CET rate), to protect the nascent industries and attract investment in the value chain and to be in harmony with the supplementary protection tax proposed rate.”
“Besides the regulation, Nigeria seeks to redress the wrong classifications on some over 200 tariff lines, including the issue of pharmaceuticals. These lists have been collated and we look forward to discussions with ECOWAS at the appropriate time to enable them to be incorporated into the CET,” he said.
“We are also of the opinion that in a limited number of circumstances, member states should be allowed to maintain peak tariffs. At present, a relatively high duty could be applied if a member state shows that the existence of substantial import surges or import prices declines,” he added.
As regards the EPA, the Minister said that Nigeria had commenced the economic analysis of its impact on a sectoral basis and firm level, adding that there was also a wide scope of consultations on the EPA process and content with a view to charting the way forward.
He urged other ECOWAS countries to do same without delay in order to know the sectoral impact and not to compromise the needs and aspirations of the peoples or region in the negotiations.