‘ECOWAS retaliatory tariffs are illegal, undermining trade, investments’
The Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Group (MANEG) has stated that retaliatory tariffs are illegal as they go against agreements cemented in ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) agreement.
According to him, these tariffs also go against the perception and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), saying that it is also a way to escape responsibility for agreements signed.
Dafinone stated this on the sidelines of its 4th yearly meeting of the Group, noting that ECOWAS member countries are looking to make revenue from liberalised items, therefore killing trade and competition.
According to him, Africa is moving towards a borderless entity and trade barriers are a disincentive to investments.”
He decried the increasing exchange rates, high cost of energy, multiple levels of taxes hindering export activities at the global market, explaining that since the pandemic struck, non-oil exporters have been practically struggling with reduced international demand coupled with domestic economic challenges.
Dafinone added that port congestion, unending Apapa gridlock, infrastructural deficiencies and smuggling are still causing untold constraints on manufacturing operations.
He said the meeting, themed “The implication of imposition and retaliatory tariffs and non-tariff barriers on trade within the ECOWAS sub-region came at the nick of time considering the recent imposition of full import duties on transit goods by the government of the Republic of Benin.
He warned manufacturers to be up and doing so as not to be flooded by goods imported from India and China, stating the need to understand the threat posed by AfCFTA.
He said that there are various complications in the ECOWAS sub-region, adding that the border closure disrupted trade significantly.
“We still have issues at the Nigeria-Benin border where the Benin government is charging exorbitant charges on goods that should be covered by the ETLS. For every day that the Benin Republic is charging this cost, Nigerian exporters are losing,” he said.
He added that the additional cost of transportation within Lagos and getting to the ports is totally becoming uneconomical, saying that the cost of transporting goods from the inter land to Lagos and the ports is a whole business of its own.
Citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics, (NBS), he said the value of manufactured goods exports fell by 3.1 per cent in Q4 2020 compared to the value recorded in Q3 2020 and 74.7 per cent compared to Q4, 2019.
“Besides the pandemic, domestic policies of government on non-oil export incentives and exchange rate policy affected the prosperity of the manufactured products export sector,” he added.
The president, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mansur Ahmed, urged manufacturers to build resilience that the country needs to scale through the present challenges while also preparing the economy for the headwinds that are still ahead to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the challenges.
He acknowledged the opportunities coming from the efforts of companies in Africa coming together to build a stronger, deeper and wider prosperous market.
The president of, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), Dr. Ken Ukaoha, said the total trade of the ECOWAS region is averaged at about $208.1 billion with an estimated export projection of $137.3 billion and a total import of $80.4 billion.
According to him, Nigeria occupies about 76 per cent of the total trade in ECOWAS while Ghana and Cote Ivoire occupy 9.2 per cent and 8.64 per cent respectively.
He expressed concerns over the lack of value addition on Nigerian commodities, saying that it weakens the nation’s export capacity.
He also called on the need for heads of States to pay attention to regional trade rather than just focusing on AfCFTA.
He said the retaliatory tariff is not helping the growth of the economy, revenue generation, employment generation and economies of the West African region.
He warned that retaliatory tariffs are bad indicators of the AfCFTA and the opportunities created by the AfCFTA.
“We cannot in any way make progress when the AfCFTA is staring at us and we are impeding the growth of our economy and trade with such unwholesome activity coming from member states’ unwillingness to implement trade rules. This is a wrong signal,” he averred.