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VP justifies consultation on AfCTA, stakeholders adamant

VP justifies consultation on AfCTA, stakeholders adamant

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Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday said the need to protect local manufacturers made the Federal Government to favour further consultations before the country would sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

But stakeholders restated their opposition to the signing of the treaty.

Osinbajo spoke at the 8th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The forum, which focused on the export sector and a brief on the AfCTA, had members of the Federal Executive Council, members of the Organised Private Sector and representatives of the National Assembly in attendance.

Osinbajo said the government must ensure that the country get the possible terms from the treaty for its trade and commerce.

He explained, “With respect to the AfCTA, there are clearly huge advantage for us. There is no question about it at all. The rest of Africa see 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 we get the best possible terms for Nigerian trade and commerce. Our experiences with dooming and other injurious practices make it obvious to us that our market could be a real target; our local manufacturing could become unprofitable, and our agricultural advantage could be reversed.”

Osinbajo added, “Consequently, we have embarked on extensive consultations with trade groups, manufacturers and organised labour in all the six geo-political zones in order to get a clear sense of concernas we navigate the process of signing the treaty.

“I think the general resolve favours engagement but the concern remains around improving the domestic environment for greater competitiveness, concerns of power supply and investment in infrastructure.”

The Vice President said he had noted the various things that the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria wanted done, adding that many of the concerns were being addressed.

He added that the government was taking into accounts all the issues that had been raised and would sure that it negotiated well.

Osinbajo said this was the first time Nigeria was negotiating on a treaty, alleging that the country was only signing treaties in the past without knowing those who negotiated them.

On the concern raised on infrastructure, Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari was passionate about the issue.

Osinbajo further stated, “For Mr President, getting the infrastructure done is a passion for him and one instruction he has given about infrastructure is that we must complete all of the projects that are important and that have been abandoned.

“He said we must complete before we start anything new. So, not only are we investing more in infrastructure in the history of this country, the largest amount of money is being invested in infrastructure today, but we are also ensuring that we complete the projects.”

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, said he had met with some of the lead manufacturers and what they were proposing was that MAN and other stakeholders should join the government’s working committee to make things work.

He, however, admitted that Nigeria would be at a disadvantage by not signing the agreement.

The minister stated, “The idea of not signing the agreement actually disadvantages us; it weakens our position. As have been pointed out by the speakers, the agreement is a ticket to play and I mean not buying the ticket to play is suicidal in a market where the consequences will be there.

“So, I suggest we do both. We accept to play and solve these problems and make sure the work goes on. And that we want to do collectively in a partnership. We are going to be having another meeting with MAN and other stakeholders who are interested in continuing with us very soon.”

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, also supported the idea of signing the treaty.

He wondered what Nigeria was still waiting for when smaller countries with lesser potential had since signed the agreement.

The Chairman, NEPAD Business Group and former President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chief Nike Akande, in her contribution, said Nigeria was not ready for the agreement until the country’s goods and services were competitive enough.

Akande warned against turning the country to a dumping ground for foreign goods.

She argued that good infrastructure was key to promoting trade and investment.

The Director-General, National Office of Trade Negotiations, Chiedu Osakwe, also noted that there were longstanding issues in the Nigerian economy that must be addressed first.

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