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FG to set up committee for implementation of AfCFTA

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By Olisemeka Obeche (With Agency Report)
President Muhammadu Buhari has given his approval for establishment of a National Action Committee (NAC) for implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, which he signed on behalf of Nigeria at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State on July 7, 2019, in Niamey, Republic of Niger.
The committee, according to a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, will comprise of representatives of ministries and agencies with competent and relevant jurisdiction, as well as selected stakeholder groups from the private sector and the civil society to coordinate the implementation of all the AfCFTA readiness interventions.
“The National Action Committee (NAC) will, upon inauguration, undertake a process of engagement with stakeholders to sensitise them on the opportunities and challenges of the AfCFTA, with plans for Nigerian economy. Upon ratification, Nigeria will domesticate the agreement by incorporating it into existing laws or enacting new laws, as appropriate. Engagement shall start with the 9th national assembly”, he said.
The presidential media aide also disclosed that Buhari had also approved recommendations of the Committee on Impact and Readiness Assessment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement. The committee, which was inaugurated by the president in October, 2018, submitted its report on 27 June, 2019.
According to him, the report was comprehensive, analytic with the full engagement of stakeholders in the Nigerian economy and was preceded by a nation-wide sensitisation process directed by the presidency.
“The report and consultative process raised the bar in engagement by government with stakeholders and set a standard for building support for strategic areas of public policy with clarity on concrete parameters for implementation action”.
The AfCFTA Agreement, which creates a single market for goods and services and movement of persons to increase intra-African trade and deepen African economic integration, has Phase I and Phase II negotiations.
The Phase I negotiations culminated in the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA, the Protocol on Trade in Goods; Protocol on Trade in Services; and the Protocol on the Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes. These were adopted by the African Union Heads of State in Kigali on 21st March, 2018. The Phase II negotiations are expected to commence in January, 2020, and will cover competition, investment and intellectual property rights.
The recommendations approved by President Buhari include signature and ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement; engaging in the ongoing negotiations of the annexures of the Agreement to incorporate safeguards for the economy such as a longer period to achieve AfCFTA’s trade liberalisation ambition, common exclusive and sensitive lists for ECOWAS, import quotas for exclusive and sensitive products, security and customs cooperation and other measures to tackle smuggling, non-tariff barriers to trade and predatory trade practices.
Buhari also approved sustaining the trade reforms at ECOWAS including the establishment of a common trade policy, improving the operation and welfare gains from the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and establishment of an ECOWAS peer review and audit mechanism; and establishing and championing programmes at AU/AfCFTA to resolve the critical continental level challenges to the success of the AfCFTA including smuggling, abuse of rules of origin, low production and service capacities, poor infrastructure and revenue loss.
On the list of the president’s approval are fast-tracking domestic work for the implementation of AfCFTA readiness interventions to enhance productivity, competitiveness and facilitate trade, which include policies to grow local capacity to produce and export goods and services; infrastructure projects, trade facilitation, ease of doing business and trade rules enforcement initiatives. And support, actively, Micro- Small and Medium Enterprises.
Meanwhile, following the signing of the agreement, Nigeria plans to participate in the ongoing negotiations on the annexures of Phase I agreement and protocols to incorporate the above safeguards approved by the president. For Trade-in-Goods Protocol, the annexures will include schedule of tariff concessions, rules of origin, customs cooperation and mutual administrative assistance, trade facilitation, transit trade and transit facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, non-tariff barriers and trade remedies, for the protocol on trade in goods.

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