Implementing Trade Facilitation Agreement for Economic Recovery

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James Emejo examines the relevance of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which the country recently endorsed at the World Trade Organisation to economic rejuvenation

Recently, the Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, on behalf of the Federal Government, ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to make Nigeria the 107th World Trade Organisation (WTO) member state to do so.

Nigeria’s instrument of acceptance of the TFA was submitted to the WTO during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the minister further held useful talks with WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevêdo.

Essentially, the TFA contains the rules of trade and aims to simplify trade, eliminate barriers, reduce red tapes and customs clearance time, among other lofty objectives.

The agreement further defines measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues and highlights provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.

In specific terms, Enalemah believes the implementation of the TFA would radically increase the volume and value of trade in goods, pointing out that, “the greater the volume, the greater the revenue generated, the more jobs are created and the more the economy expands.”

Furthermore, the minister believes such economic activity had the potential to actualise the economic diversification plan of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as more jobs would inevitably cause the economy to grow and expand, a development that would naturally aid expansion in industrialisation and diversification.

And in a move, which attests to the seriousness of the current administration to implement credible reforms to turn things around, the Senior Director for Trade and Competitiveness at the World Bank, Anabel Gonzalez, recently visited the ministry of trade with her team to engage in concrete discussions to commence the implementation of the TFA.

As a matter of fact, Enalemah said, “We have started implementation in earnest.”

Experts believe that with the several trade barriers which the country was confronted with before now, the TFA should reverse the ugly trends, especially in the areas of the vexatious rejection of Nigerian goods.

Government had also been working on a functional National Quality Infrastructure to address issues on standards.

According to Enalemah, on the series of meetings with partners, “We discussed the single window and one-stop shop; raising the quality of Nigerian products for export; setting up a trade infrastructure at the ministry; assistance in training staff; assistance with World Bank diagnostic study and analysis that will help us in negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).”

He said the TFA broke new ground for developing and least-developed countries in the way it will be implemented.

“For the first time in WTO history, the requirement to implement the agreement was directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so,” he said.

The minister further explained that Nigeria’s ratification of the TFA was a reflection of its commitment to the WTO and a rules-based economy.

According to him, “It is evident of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to rapidly implement his presidential initiative on the creation of an enabling environment for business. Nigeria would like to see a strengthened WTO that reflects the development principles of developing countries like Nigeria and we praise the effectiveness of DG Azevêdo in this regard.”

Meanwhile, it is worthy of note that Azevêdo had been on a campaign to help countries including Nigeria pursue economic diversification and create job opportunities for citizens.

Most of the country’s existing trade agreements are believed to be unrealistic and outdated in view of new realities in the global front, prompting efforts for renegotiated agreements to reflect present conditions.

The recent federal government’s directive on all its foreign missions abroad to commence a 48- hour visa issuance programme to those willing to do business with Nigerians was no doubt a direct fallout of the trade facilitation effort.

Nigeria’s Chief Trade Negotiator, Mr. Chiedu Osakwe, had also said trade remedies were being drafted to tackle disruptive trade practices particularly dumping of substandard products in the country.

“We need to use trade policy to correct imbalances in global trade,” he stated.

No doubt, the successful implementation of the TFA could reset the economic fortunes of the country and aid its recovery from the current recession.