African Free Trade Not Yet Priority

Nigeria has replied the African Union Commission and lobbyists that it is not in a hurry to pen the African Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The decision of the federal government is hinged on the implication signing the agreement would have on the nation’s economy.

The Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Dr Adeyemi Dipeolu, said on Wednesday in Ibadan at the 60th anniversary lecture of the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan.

“Nigeria’s reluctance in signing the African Free Trade Agreement is based on the commitment to ensure that only what will benefit its economic interest is implemented as a policy,’’ Dipeolu said.

He further explained that Nigeria would not rush into signing something that may eventually make it a dumping ground.

Dipeolu who is the chairman of the occasion however, said there was the need for Nigeria to diversify into export and increase its revenue base.

“We have to look at the current theory to influence our trade policy while our policy on transhipment must be addressed, ” he said.

He therefore challenged educational institutions to take the lead in championing economic analysis on policy issues.

Also speaking, the Coordinator, African Trade Policy Center (ATPC), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Dr David Duke, said African countries must have a strategy to benefit from the agreement.

Duke who is the guest lecturer spoke on the topic: Economic Rationale of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

He said it was important for African countries to open up their economies to encourage intra-regional trade in order to boost their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment.

Duke noted that Nigeria would benefit from intra-African trade as it would become a game changer in stimulating growth and boosting industrialisation.

He further stressed that African countries need to check external trading with the rest of the world by encouraging intra-African trading.

“The agreement may well offer better opportunities for African economies to industrialise than African relations with external partners,” he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari on October 22, inaugurated the Presidential Committee for Impact and Readiness Assessment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

At the event at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Buhari said that Nigeria would not sign any treaty without assessing its impact on the lives of its citizens.

The president said Nigeria would henceforth take its time to break-away from the past practice, where treaties were signed without making the needed positive gains for the country.

The Committee has the Minister of Industry as its Chairman, with the Chief of Staff to the President as Co-Chairman.

Buhari said: “We are determined to breakaway from the past practice of committing Nigeria to treaties without a definite implementation plan to actualise the expected benefit while mitigating the risks.

“We cannot go back to the days of signing agreements without understanding and planning for the consequences of such actions and our country being the worst for it.

“Few months ago I directed a nationwide stakeholders’ engagement on the Africa Free Trade Continental Area Agreement to understand the true impact of this agreement on Nigeria and Nigerians, considering the existing domestic and regional policies as it relates to trade.’’

The president observed that from the consultation, the key issues raised by stakeholders were abuse of rules of origin, smuggling arising from difficulties in border controls and unqualified impact of legacy preferential trade agreements.

According to him, other issues raised include low capacity and capability of local businesses to conduct international trade, costly finance, and insufficient energy and transport logistics infrastructure.

He, however, revealed that the nation’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan would address these issues.

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