NIGERIA and other African countries may have to wait a little longer for the full take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as gray areas still exist, ICIR has learned.
The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement entered fully into force on January 1, 2021, but has not yet fully taken off.
The Director General of the Nigerian Trade Negotiations Office, Ambassador Yonov Agah, highlighted several obstacles to the pact’s rapid take-off.
Agar, speaking at the subnational strategy workshop of the National Action Committee on the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement in Abuja, said many issues were still being negotiated. by various continental regional blocs, stressing that rules of origin were still under discussion.
Apart from the rules of origin negotiations, he said the document for trade in goods is still under negotiation.
“The AfCTA is still under construction, for the moment only the framework agreement has been finalized. So far, 54 countries have signed, with only 34 countries ratifying the agreements. Eritrea has yet to sign the trade agreements.
“Rules of origin, trade protocols on tariffs, technical barriers to trade, protocols on dispute settlement are key areas still under study. Said Agah.
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He said real trade has not officially taken off as a trade document has yet to be developed.
Phase 2 of the negotiations which includes intellectual property rights, protocols, investment, empowerment of women and youth are new areas of negotiations that are currently under discussion, he added.
Likewise, AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mele told ICIR during his recent visit to Nigeria that concerns about gray areas of the trade pact were still being resolved.
“Overall, we are in the early stages of implementation. We are also still negotiating the outstanding areas of the first phase of trade in goods and trade in services. The second phase that we will start from July to August concerns intellectual property rights, competition policy on women in commerce, digital commerce. We want to do it right so that our employees can make the most of the benefits of the trade pact. ” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Francis Anatogu, Senior Special Assistant to the President for Public Sector Issues and Secretary of the National Action Committee on AfCTA, told ICIR that it is better to take off quickly. that take off completely with errors.
According to him, the European Union’s common trade project is 73 years old while the Asian free trade area is 30 years old.
He noted that the trade pact will remove 90 percent of tariffs on tradable items for more than ten years, stressing that gray areas are currently being sorted out to avoid exploitation of Nigerian markets.
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He said: “When the negotiations on the rule of origin are completed, certified products from Africa will have AfCTA certification to avoid dumping.”
He suggested to subnational representatives at the abet to work with the federal government to target 10 percent of the African market share to expand Nigeria’s exports.
“If states succeed in targeting 10% of their market share in the export of goods where they have a competitive advantage, it would be a game-changer for our export market and boost our currencies. “
Industry experts have argued that sorting out areas of gray concern is essential to ensure the trade pact’s rapid take-off.
“The rules of origin must be clearly defined. We have had cases where some of our neighbors like the Republic of Benin are used as strategic dumpsites for certain finished products which have been renamed as products locally, ”said Célestine Okeke, associate consultant for the UK Department for International Development (DFID). ICIR.
Okeke pointed out that without proper checks and balances, trade liberalization within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could be exploited by some African countries to take advantage of the Nigerian market.
A former chairman of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Adetokunbo Kayode, said ICIR this priority should also be given to the establishment of dispute settlement centers in the African continental free trade area in order to ensure a swift resolution of any trade disputes.
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