By KAYODE OGUNWALE
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) maintained its position on Wednesday that President Muhammadu Buhari should not sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as key concerns that it raised have not been addressed, four months after they were raised.
The association’s president, Frank Jacobs, at a briefing at its office in Lagos said the questions it raised were in relation to “the impact of AfCFTA on the nation’s tax structure, government revenue and the welfare of over 180 million Nigerians; what will become of the industrialisation and economic development aspirations of Nigeria; or what the fiscal and monetary implications of AfCFTA on Nigeria would be,” noting that these were yet to be determined.
Jacobs went on to raise a number of queries that he said the Nigerian government needed to be fully clear on before consenting to the trade agreement.
“What are the justifications for agreeing to the proposed movement of 90 percent of tariff lines to zero percent duty and what would become of non-tariff charges, levies, incentives, waivers and exemptions currently operational in Nigeria? What will be the fiscal implications of AfCFTA on the income of governments and regional economic communities? How will non-tariff charges viz-a-viz non-African countries be treated under the AfCFTA regime? What is the most ideal time frame for the gradual but progressive movement of 90 percent of tariff line to zero percent duty and which product lines have been agreed for liberalization to be on exclusion and sensitive list?” Jacobs queried.
Although the Manufacturers found the work of the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN) commendable, it said the findings were far from addressing the concerns of the members of the organised private sector, adding that until the outcome of a credible independent study is achieved the nation’s team should only participate in the negotiation process to be abreast of developments.
Jacobs said: “That will certainly not jeopardise or constrain the reservation of our assent, should the country eventually decide that the agreement is definitely not in its favour. It will only mean that, whilst keeping our eyes on the goings-on, we can continue with our much needed and sovereign path to determine whether we should sign-on or not”.
According to him, a number of non-real sector operators in the private sector have been cheering on the president on the agreement under the pretext that majority of Nigerians and the key OPS stakeholders were in unison with their position but which completely differs with the technicalities of a trade agreement of this magnitude.
“MAN believes that Nigeria may become a big player and key driver of improved volume of intra-African trade in an African Free Trade Area with the right market offer mix, rules of origin, countervailing measures, dispute settlement mechanism, non-tariff and technical barriers provisions, amongst other protocols and annexures.” Jacobs said.
“The only way to guarantee this positive proposition is to ensure that our negotiating team is guided by a credible and strategic country specific study. There is no wisdom in signing-on upfront only to end up struggling to find space in the accompanying Protocols and Annexures. We need to be certain that the Agreement is in sync and not constraining our extant economic policies, including the NIRP and the ERGP,” he stressed.