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MAN kicks as Nigeria’s priority products are omitted from AfCFTA’s sensitive, exclusive lists

The Guardian (Nigeria) | 26 February 2020

MAN kicks as Nigeria’s priority products are omitted from AfCFTA’s sensitive, exclusive lists

By Femi Adekoya

Despite being a major market in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), local manufacturers have kicked against the exclusion of Nigeria’s priority products from the sensitive and exclusive lists of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), operators do not agree with the identified 429 tariff lines in the Sensitive and 184 tariff lines in the Exclusion lists consolidated by the ECOWAS Commission because preferences of Nigeria were not included.

They added that the use of frequency of the choice of member-state as the major criteria to select tariff lines that will go into Exclusion, Sensitive and Liberalized baskets; not minding the economic size, the magnitude of market and industrialization capacity of member-states was not acceptable.

MAN, at its zonal sensitisation workshop on AfCFTA, explained that tariff schedule for trade in goods was reviewed by the National Technical Group on AfCFTA Trade in Goods (NTGTG) and submitted to Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN). Thereafter, NOTN submitted the document to Tariff Technical Committee (TTC) chaired by the Federal Ministry of Finance for consideration, approval and onward transmission to ECOWAS Commission

MAN, however, observed that some of the items in the submission made to Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN)/Tariff Technical Committee (TTC) were not included in the schedule submitted to ECOWAS by Nigeria.

“This was corroborated by the discovery that Nigeria priority products were not included in the list consolidated by ECOWAS Commission. Most worrisome is the fact that experts concluded work on the document with express approval that ECOWAS Commission should present to ECOMOT for consideration and approval, despite the reservations and objections from Nigeria”, Adeyemi Folorunsho of MAN’s sectoral department said.

Considering the reservation/objection by Nigeria, MAN said the Authority of Heads of States of ECOWAS has directed the ECOWAS Commission to go back and consider the reservations/objections of Nigeria.

“As it is now, Nigeria concerns will no longer be ignored by ECOWAS. Hopefully, some of the items that are strategic to Nigeria which ideally should be in the Exclusion and Sensitive lists but were ‘pushed’ by ECOWAS to the liberalized list, would be restored; Other items as presented in the Exclusion and Sensitive lists shall be properly monitored as we accompany NOTN by extension Nigeria to the negotiating table”, MAN added.

MAN President, Mansur Ahmed, described the trade treaty as a symbol of commitment of African Union to free trade on the continent through progressive elimination of tariffs on imports covering 90 percent of tariff lines in Trade in-Goods and Services.

“MAN recognises the imperativeness of creating a beneficial Free Trade Area for export of the products of members and has strongly worked assiduously to promote the articulation of evidence-based positions on AfCFTA,” Mansur said.

Mansur, who was represented by Isaac Ade Agoye, national treasurer of the association, said every trade agreement came with economic gains and pains.

“Nigeria has signed the AfCFTA Agreement with great expectation that the country would gain from the free trade arrangement and not suffer too many losses,” he said.

“This, notwithstanding, we are aware that the results of the country-specific studies commissioned by MAN and the Government presented compelling evidence that the AfCFTA would have some backlashes on the Nigerian economy, especially the manufacturing sector.” Mansur said.

As a result, MAN had thoroughly and extensively validated its position through internal consultative processes and also engaged in advocacy, high level multi-level discussions especially with policy makers, he said, stressing that it had equally done extensive research in a bid to sensitise manufacturers on pros and cons of the trade agreement.

He further called for improved value addition among its members in order to fully enjoy the opportunities inherent in the AfCFTA

Director, Economics & Statistics Department, MAN, Oluwasegun Osidipe, said AfCFTA was a major milestone in Africa offering a market of 1.2 billion people, growth in intra-African trade, GDP worth $2.5 trillion, among other opportunities. He, however, said the trade agreement could only achieve its objectives if the traded goods and services were produced within Africa.

He said Nigeria was not in position to benefit from the various opportunities due to poor trade infrastructure; hostile trade environment, especially among Nigeria’s neighbouring countries; high level of trade malpractices; and limited trade capacity fuelled by supply constraints, among other things.

“The high cost operating environment, the dearth of basic infrastructure and uncompetitive nature of manufactured products may constrain Nigeria from securing maximum trade benefits” Osidipe said.

The AfCFTA is a continental trade agreement that is targeted at eliminating barriers to trade among African countries.

In his presentation titled, ‘AfCFTA Trade in Goods Protocol: Manufacturers’ Readiness’, Osidipe said the private sector was not ready for implementation of AfCFTA due to the uncompetitive state of Nigeria’s production environment in recent times, adding that capacity utilisation in manufacturing had hovered between 50 and 57 percent in the last five years.

He admonished manufacturers to incorporate high level of value addition, stressing that research had shown that taste of consumers was changing rapidly.

He urged Nigerian manufacturers to capitalise on the opportunities of the trade agreement, saying that it was necessary for the private sector to strategically position itself to ensure that other laws that would enhance gainful participation were enacted.

He further urged them to advocate for the resolution of challenges such as trade malpractices, insecurity, poor trade facilitation and infrastructure, porous borders, among others, while engaging the leadership of the National Assembly with necessary information that could facilitate beneficial regional and continental parliamentary engagements.

 source: The Guardian (Nigeria)