Preparatory to the 2017 establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in Africa, Nigeria has commenced negotiations to facilitate the adoption of the trade deal after several months of lagging behind among other trade blocs.
Indeed, three Regional Economic Communities (RECs)—the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC)—had reached an agreement in 2015 to expedite the process towards the operationalization of the tripartite Free Trade Area by finalising outstanding issues.
The AU had set a deadline of December 2017 for the adoption of the CFTA, though the Federal Government explained that the gruelling process of negotiations and adoption therefore, will depend on how much progress is made.
Once concluded, the CFTA will enhance the movement of goods and services and boost trade facilitation within the 54-member bloc of the continent.
Already, three regions had made a bold move to realise the African Union (AU) 2017 target ahead of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, which is still bedevilled by other trade issues.
In a statement made available to The Guardian by the office of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, yesterday, the Minister noted that the Nigerian Negotiating team departed for Kigali, Rwanda, on Monday for another round of text-based negotiations in the Technical Working Groups (TWG) of the Negotiating Forum for the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).
According to Okelamah, the Nigerian trade team will continue to argue for “flexibility” that allows it to safeguard the economy from a flood of imports, even as it remains an open economy.
“These negotiations are a geo-strategic imperative because of Nigeria’s standing, position and leadership. Nigeria has a duty to provide leadership, inter alia, because the CFTA negotiations are based on a mandate from the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU),” said Dr. Enelamah.
He continued: “Increasing intra-African trade is crucial in a global economy that is turning protectionist. The CFTA negotiations provide a huge opportunity for economic growth and increased welfare in Africa, in a global economy in rapid but uncertain transformation. At the same time, we will continue to take into cognizance the complexities of our domestic market and ensure appropriate safeguards for the Nigerian Economy.”
Consisting of eight negotiators drawn from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Ministry of Finance, the team is expected to engage colleagues from 53 other African nations on the emerging draft substantive text of the CFTA, being reviewed in the six TWGs.
For other blocs that commenced negotiations earlier, the tripartite agreement would see the establishment of a single market for the 26 African countries in the Eastern and Southern African Region, while outstanding issues like the elimination of import duties, trade remedies and rules of origin, as well as the commencement of Phase II negotiations covering trade in services, cooperation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property rights and cross border investments would be addressed under the outstanding issues.