The Director of Trade, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mr. Gbenga Obideyi, has called on member states to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to ensure the preservation of the ECOWAS acquis.Obideyi made the call in Abuja on Thursday during a national validation workshop on the study conducted by the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) on Articulating Nigeria’s Agricultural Trade Strategies for the AfCFTA Negotiation.
The EU’s ‘acquis’ is the body of common rights and obligations that are binding on all EU countries, as EU Members.
“For the ECOWAS region, 13 out of the 15 Member States have so far signed the AfCFTA Agreement and eight of our Member States have also ratified it.
“Nigeria and Benin are the only Member States yet to sign the agreement and for very good reasons.
“We have urged our Member States yet to sign and ratify to do so to ensure the preservation of the ECOWAS obligations and that the AfCFTA is coherent with regional advancements,” he said.
According to him, as of March 28, 52 African States have signed the agreement with the remainder of only three African countries.
Obideyi said that at the recently concluded African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in February 2019, the Summit endorsed the agreements reached by the African Ministers of Trade in Cairo Egypt in December 2018.
According to him, the products to be excluded from liberalisation will represent no more than three percent of tariff lines and sensitive products will represent no more than seven percent of tariff lines.
“The AfCFTA agreement may have far reaching implications for the ECOWAS trade objectives, including the Common External Tariff and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and other services regulations.
“Stakeholders in the different Member States need to be briefed on the implications of the 3/7 designation for sensitive products and list of exclusions on the ECOWAS trade objective.
”I am glad NANTS has taken this further by undertaking a study on the potential implications for the agricultural sector,” he said.
Obideyi said that ECOWAS was currently assisting Member States to present a common Market Access Offer that would reflect the aspirations of all countries in the region.
He said that ECOWAS had received inputs from Nigeria and was waiting for inputs from other Member States.
Obideyi said that all ECOWAS’s products at 35 percent Common External Tariff (CET), numbering about 130 tariff lines would all be excluded.
According to him, pharmaceutical products are of special concern for Nigeria, so they will also be considered for exclusion.
“Currently, at the AU level, we are developing mechanisms for compensation and are also discussing guidelines for infant industry protection,” he said.
Mr. Ken Ukaoha, President, NANTS said that there was no doubt that the agreement has the potential to handhold Africans and particularly Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) out of the poverty bracket.
Ukaoha said the agreement also has the capacity to increase access to market that are larger than the colonially imposed national boundaries and demarcations.
He said it was speculated that the agreement can create up to 20 million to 30 million jobs needed each year to accommodate the waves of young people entering the labour market.
Ukaoha said that at the same time it would boost intra-African trade from 15 percent to at least 25 percent within the next 10 years.