AfCFTA: FG's trade policy revision will facilitate market access — Buhari

By Victoria Ojeme

President Muhammadu Buhari wants the National Assembly to set in motion modalities to domesticate the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The President who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Public Sector Matters and Secretary of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Francis Anatogu said the objective of the AfCFTA will help to deepen economic integration of the continent, improve and expand intra-Africa trade, enable rule-based engagement facilitating dispute resolution and addressing injurious trade practices.

The AfCFTA which came into effect this January is considered the foundation for enhanced cross-continental trade in Africa.

Signed by 54 countries, the agreement comprises the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers, the simplification of custom procedures, and the elimination of red tape with the aim of creating a single market for goods, persons and services. Representing the largest economy in Africa, with over $500 billion in Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) and a population of 200 million people, Nigeria is poised to significantly gain from both investment and trade opportunities created by the AfCTA.

Atatogu who spoke at a Leadership Stakeholders Consultation on ‘Defining the Trade in Service Strategy for the AfCFTA’ said the agreement will also serve as the foundation for establishment of a continental Customs Union.

He expressed optimism that if effectively implemented, the AfCFTA will result in the elimination of tariffs on 90 per cent of tariff lines, adding that product specific rules of origin will help to grow African content.

Anatogu also said the pact would assist in the harmonization of policies, regulations and standards, as well as lead to customs co-operation and mutual administrative assistance.

The AfCTA, according to him, will double intra-Africa trade flows, currently at 15 per cent as well as double Africa’s share of world trade from three per cent to six per cent over the next 10 years.

Urging stakeholders to facilitate the domestication of AfCFTA as enshrined in the constitution, in order to ensure utmost benefits accrues to Nigeria, Professor of International Economic Relations at Covenant University, who doubles as a consultant of ECOWAS Common Investment Market, John Aremu during a presentation titles “Conceptual Issues in Africa Integration Emergence of AfCFTA, and It’s Protocol”said while it is right for Nigeria to ratify the agreement, the constitution provides that such treaties entered into by the can only become beneficial to the nation if it has a place inside nigerian law to guarantee enforceability.

“If AfCFTA cannot be domesticated into the national law, it cannot be deployed in defense of cases involving their violations before courts of law in the country, neither can they be used for advocacy of rights within the country.

“Further to this, violators of AfCFTA provisions, whether they be institutions, companies or individuals cannot be held accountable, since the AfCFTA treaty has not been domesticated in the country”, he said.

This he said can be supported by section 12(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, about Implementation of treaties which states that “no treaty between the federation and other country shall have the force of the law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly”.

Aremu further said failure or lateness for Nigeria to domesticate AfCFTA will cause unreasonable hardship on other AU member states that intend to have a commercial relationship with the country under the continental economic integration. This he said will further discourage reading and affect the inflow of investments into Nigeria and also stunt the growth of the law in the country.

He also advocated the need for the upgrade of the overall quality of the nation’s physical infrastructure like roads, rail, port facilities, telecommunications, which are prerequisite to profitable intra-African trade.

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He called for the use of online information portal, single windows, digital documentation, Pan African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), electronic Certificates and signatures and automated processing of trade declaration would help simplify, streamline and expedite trade-related procedures at the borders.

For Nigeria to fully benefit from AfCFTA, Professor Aremu said Nigeria must reduce infrastructural deficit by building on ongoing efforts and also reduce on other critical NBTs such as customs and other Administrative requirements that directly affects the capacity of economies to trade merchandise within and outside their borders.

Others include improving trade facilitation commitments of the country as regards categories A, B and C with WTO/TFA as a priority area for reforms while also ensuring a strong institutional and governance framework in the implementation of AfCFTA.

On commencement of AfCFTA, the Don said beyond boosting Intra-Africa trade, the larger market offered by AfCFTA are expected to trigger investment, leading to high productivity and addition to the continent value chain, more and better jobs and further enlarging the continental market.

Additionally, he said despite the high level of political momentum around AfCFTA, the ultimate success depends on African states not merely ratifying the treaty but repositioning themselves towards complying with demands in the AfCFTA.

He said while other continents have increased intra- trade among them, Africa still lag behind in trading within itself.

“Intra-Africa trade is about 12%, compared to North America free Trade Area (NAFTA) of 40% and 63% between economies of Western Europe And 30% for ASEAN.

“There can never be any good reason why it is easier for us to trade with Asia, Europe and America, rather than with fellow Africans” he quoted John Mahama as saying.

The academic said African countries can improve intra-trade among themselves by adopting trade diversion, which entails abandoning the lowest cost producer like China and importing the same product from a member of the union.

Prof. John Aremu also said the policy of trade creation where the country with comparative advantage is allowed to produce a particular product while others patronise it can be employed.

“By bringing down the barriers to trade between Nigeria and Egypt, the imports from Egypt will become cheaper than the ones produced by companies within Nigeria and those imported from China, since import duties remain on china, thereby creating more trade from Egypt”, he said.

Prof. Aremu lamented Africa’s contribution to global trade volume and blamed lack of proper renegotiation of global agreements to integrate the continent and increase her participation in the global trade.

According to him, “Africa accounts for about 3% of the global trade despite Doha Development Agenda (DDA) of the WTO, AGOA of USA and ECAs of EU; all of which have not been negotiated to enable Africa’s successful integration into the global Economy despite promise.

“Africa accounts for just 2.4% of global GDP; has approximately 30% of the Earth’s remaining mineral resources; largest reserve of precious metals, over 40% of gold reserves, over 60% of cobalt and 90% of platinum reserves, yet Africa is the world’s poorest and underdeveloped”.

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