AfCFTA ratification on ledge as MAN, NACCIMA bicker over decision
Manufacturers commission study to guide negotiations
Nigeria’s ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), appears to be on the ledge as key members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS), the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), disagree on Federal Government’s decision.
While NACCIMA wants government to ratify the trade deal without delay, other members of the OPS, including MAN, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), and the National Association of Small Scale Industries (NASSI), expressed reservations about the ratification till certain conditions were satisfied.
Specifically, MAN alleged that an insignificant number of non-real sector operators in the private sector, despite not being at home with the technicalities of a trade agreement, are tactfully recommending that Mr President signed the agreement under the camouflage that majority of Nigerians and the OPS agrees with their position.
Indeed, MAN reiterated its position that that Mr President should not sign the AfCFTA agreement until the outcome of a credible study so indicate, but graciously allow the nation’s team to resume participation in the negotiation processes only to ensure that the country is abreast of developments.
To this end, MAN said it has since commissioned a study and expects to have the report by August.
But NACCIMA had on Monday, argued that while Nigeria continues to address issues around the AfCFTA, and work on a strategy for implementation to tackle the problems, it should sign the agreement now and set up an all-embracing implementation Committee in readiness for when it will finally take off.
In a chat with journalists on Wednesday, MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs, while citing the challenges in the implementation of the Common External Tariff (CET), noted that Nigeria was not ready for the ECOWAS market.
He pointed out that there is no wisdom in signing-on upfront only to end up struggling to find space in the accompanying protocols and annexures. He also emphasised the need to ascertain that the agreement is in sync, and not constraining the nation’s extant economic policies, including the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
He said the pact has no credible country-specific study to show the potential impact of the AfCFTA; and no specific attention was given to determine the cost and benefit analysis of the agreement. Also, the sectors/sub-sectors that would benefit or be worse off as a result of the Agreement are unknown; no clear-cut recommendation on strategies that government would adopt to enhance the capacity of the manufacturing sector to compete effectively.
Jacobs noted that the Presidents of the OPS at its meeting on Tuesday, affirmed that Nigeria should be circumspect on the decision to sign the AfCFTA, but await the outcome of a credible study that should guide its negotiations.
Indeed, MAN said its concerns are yet to be addressed, while pointing out that the recently conducted and launched study by the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), has still not addressed the glaring lapses.
Jacobs said it is worrisome to observe that the study failed to address the concerns of manufacturers, stressing that the outcome of the NOTN sponsored independent study on the potential benefits of AfCFTA on Nigeria, fell short of standards and lacked the much-needed information required to take an informed decision.
He added that Nigeria may become a big player and key driver of improved volume of intra-African trade in an African Free Trade Area with the right market offer mix, rules of origin, countervailing measures, dispute settlement mechanism, non-tariff and technical barriers provisions, amongst other protocols and annexure. But he insisted that the only way to guarantee this positive proposition is to ensure that its negotiating team is guided by a credible and strategic country specific study.
Also speaking at the event, the Director General, MAN, Segun Kadir, said NACCIMA’s position on Nigeria signing the agreement has no objective basis.
“I think it is unfair for any private organisation to play on the intelligence of Nigerians and to try to convince the Federal Government by diluting the resolute position that the private sector has taken. There are five bodies in the Organised Private Sector, and one of us is taking a unilateral decision to advise the government to sign, and it shows bad fate in the engagement that we have established many years ago,” he added.