The Federal Government has pledged that Nigeria would get the best possible terms from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, stated this on Monday while addressing the 8th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Osinbajo who noted that the entire continent is desirous of having Nigeria as a big player in its trade and commerce, however, expressed concerns about practices that could be harmful to the country’s economy.
He said, “The rest of Africa sees the enormous advantage of Nigeria’s participation; everybody is waiting for us naturally.
“And that is because they see a huge market, there are advantages of our being there, but we must ensure to get the best possible terms for Nigerian trade and commerce.”
Osinbajo, however, recalled the country’s experience with dumping and other injurious practices which “make it obvious to us that our market could be a real target, our local manufacturing could become unprofitable, our agricultural advances could be reversed.”
He stated that the administration embarked on wide consultations with trade groups, manufacturers and organized labour in the six geopolitical zones in order to get a clear sense of concerns and how best to navigate the process of signing the treaty.
According to him, results from the consultations favoured Nigeria’s signing of the agreement even though concerns were expressed about improving the domestic environment.
“The general results favour engagement but the concerns remain around improving the domestic environment for greater competitiveness, concerns of power supply and investment in infrastructure,” he said.
Osinbajo also noted the various studies that the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria wanted government to look into before taking a decision on the ACFTA.
He said, “The only way to go is that we must fix the gap, we must keep the engine running, there is no time for us to say let’s wait, take down the entire time just to prepare.
“I think this is the time to go ahead and do something about it while we are taking into accounts all the issues that have been raised and making sure that we are negotiating well.
“For the first time Nigeria is actually engaged and we are leading the engagement, this is something that has never happened in the past.
“In the past we found treaties that were negotiated nobody knew who negotiated them, nobody knew how they were done, nobody knew what was going on.”
The Director-General of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), Chiedu Osakwe, said Nigeria could not afford to delay the signing of the agreement.
Osakwe, who is Nigeria’s Chief Negotiator for the ACFTA, said there was a lot of focus on Africa because of its 1.2 billion population and market size of 2.5 billion.
He said 49 out of 55 members of the African Union have signed the Africa Continent Free Trade Agreement, while six have ratified it.
He also said that 13 of the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have signed the agreement, while Nigeria and Guinea Bissau are the two countries that had yet to sign the ACFTA.