By Franklin Ocheneyi
“IF you are not competitive, why open your door to other competitors? You will kill yourself; if the federal government had ignored our concerns and sign the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), most of the manufacturing concerns here would be worse off and close shops within three months of the implementation of the AfCFTA.”
Dr. Frank Jacobs, President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) told journalists at a press briefing on the AfCFTA, yesterday, in Lagos.
Area of Concerns
According to him, MAN was apprehensive that the Rules of Origin in the AfCFTA cannot be adequately enforced to guard against the influx of European Union (EU) goods into the Nigerian market.
The Rules of Origin are used to determine the country of origin of a product for the purpose of international trade.
“We are afraid that the Rules of Origin cannot be adequately enforced because goods from the EU can find their way into one of the African countries that have a bilateral agreement with the EU.
“When the goods get into the African country, they can repackage them; change the label from Made in Europe to that of the African country.
“These same goods will surely find their way to Nigeria which is the main target market for the EU,” Jacob said.
Jacob also noted that the market access under the agreement was a concern to manufacturers, as it provides low protection for locally produced goods.
“The agreement says that 90 per cent of the tariff plan would be liberalised, leaving only 10 per cent to protect manufacturers and that 10 per cent is too low.
That means that the rest of the 90 per cent is open, duty-free, and people can import.”
“What we are saying is that the 10 percent is too small, even at the current Common External Tariff (CET) regime; we enjoy more than 10 per cent.
“How can they now expect us to accept only 10 per cent as the only protective tariff line? That is an area that is of great concern to us,” Jacob said.
Thank You Our Listening President Buhari
“I, on behalf of the National Council and members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, commend President Muhammadu Buhari, for his decision to cancel his trip to Kigali, Ruwanda for the signing of the Framework Agreement for the establishment of the AfCFTA at the 10th Extra Ordinary Meeting of the African Union Heads of States and Government scheduled for March 21, 2018,” said Jacobs.
According to him, the President took the right decision to allow time for adequate consultations among relevant stakeholders before the country endorses the continental trade agreement.
According to him, MAN is not oblivious of the benefits inherent in installing a continental trade agreement like AfCFTA; as a continental trade area could improve intra-African trade and enhance economic growth and sustainable development. However, we hasten to add that Nigeria’s national interest should be the primary consideration in the decision to sign-on to such an arrangement.
Why Nigeria withdrew Participation
However, President Muhammadu Buhari withdrew his participation from the summit and did not travel to Kigali, saying that continental aspirations must complement Nigeria’s national interests.
This was after his cabinet had endorsed the AfCFTA.
“As Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, we are committed to ensuring that all trade agreements we sign are beneficial to the long-term prosperity of the continent,” Buhari said in a statement.
“We are therefore widening and deepening domestic consultations on the AfCFTA to ensure that all concerns are respectfully addressed. Any African free trade agreement must fairly and equitably represent the interests of Nigeria, and indeed, her African brothers and sisters,” he said.
Objectives of AfCFTA
Nigeria Industrial Digest learned that AfCFTA is part of Africa’s plan to promote intra and inter-regional trade, economic cooperation and partnership on the continent by 2063, and seeks to make Africa the largest free trade area, improve its economies and strengthen its position in global trade.