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Activate safeguards after AfCFTA ratification, operators tell FG

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Buhari

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has advocated necessary safeguards, systems, soft and hard infrastructure, including viable ICT policies must be activated to maximise the potential benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), following Federal Government’s resolve to sign the deal.

The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), had equally supported the move, except for the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), that insisted on wide consultations with the affected operators and other stakeholders before the deal is ratified.

The Government had on Tuesday night, said Nigeria will sign the continental free-trade deal at an extraordinary summit of the African Union this weekend, bringing the duty-free movement of goods in the region a step closer.

Touted as the biggest economy in the continent, Nigeria’s ratification of the deal clears a hurdle in the implementation of the AfCFTA, as President Muhammadu Buhari last week, received a report urging him to sign the deal from a committee set up to consider whether the country should join.

Nigeria will sign the deal at the summit in Niger, “after extensive domestic consultations, and is focused on taking advantage of ongoing negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards against smuggling, dumping and other risks or threats,” the Presidency said on Twitter.

Specifically, LCCI urged the government to maximise benefits accruable from consumers and market right of access to multiple and diversified products and services, and seek protection against abusive and injurious parties in and outside Nigeria, based on ongoing capacity expansion of trade laws. 

The Chamber said: “We support the recommendation of the Presidential Committee on impact and readiness assessment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which urged the signing of the agreement. 

“Recall that we had earlier called for the signing of the agreement at our last press briefing as we believe that the country stands to gain more than lose from signing the Free Trade agreement. We maintain that that while this would improve trade among African countries and provide opportunity for Nigeria to export to other African countries.”

“Meanwhile, appropriate safeguard measures should be put in place to protect vulnerable sectors of the economy and to also ensure that there is effective enforcement of the rules of origin.

“However, we are of the opinion that, in the long run, the nation should focus more on building an economy that is competitive rather than having a disproportionate focus on protectionist approach to industrialisation,” LCCI’s President, Babatunde Ruwase, added.

African intra-country trade is at about 15 percent of the total compared with 20 percent in Latin America, and 58 percent in Asia, according to the African Export-Import (Afrexim) Bank. This could more than double within the first decade after implementing the deal, the Cairo-based lender said in a report last year.
After four years of talks, the mechanics of the agreement will be negotiated in phases, and expected to be fully operational by 2030.


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