James Emejo in Abuja
Stakeholders in both the public and private sectors have called on the federal government to develop and implement policies geared towards infrastructure development.
This, according them, is to enable the country to draw maximum benefits of the proposed Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which takes effect from July 1, 2020.
They also emphasised the need to ensure that the country’s trade negotiators are well-armed with adequate knowledge, skills and awareness of the geopolitics that comes into play in trade negotiations with partners.
According to them, these essential skills will ensure successful negotiations that aids economic development and market dominance for Nigeria.
The stakeholders conveyed their position in a communique issued at the end of the joint private and public sector consultative forum on trade in services which was convened by the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN).
They argued that it was in the interest of Nigeria to play a prominent role in the ongoing negotiations at both regional and continental levels of it must optimise the benefits of AfCTA, adding that public acceptance and credibility of the outcome of the consultations depended greatly on the professionalism, attitude and skills of negotiators and robust preparations.
Participants further expressed appreciation for the considerable efforts made by President Muhammadu Buhari, by directing the sensitisation and consultations with relevant players in the economy.
They also commended the enthusiasm and technical competence of the country’s acting Chief Trade Negotiator/Director General, NOTN, Mr. Victor Liman, and his team as well as acknowledged the private sector experts in their daily efforts towards the level of preparedness that will transform the country’s participation in the respective trade agreements to a profitable venture for Nigerians.
In an interview with THISDAY, Liman argued that the consultations were important for the country as, “whatsoever we do at the AfCTA will affect our economy, will affect our GDP growth, job creation,welfare and productivity and of course, infrastructure and competitiveness in particular for the country.”
He said: “I think people need to understand this and they have to engage with it, interrogate and to make sure that they also contribute their own observations, positions to what we do.”
Asked how prepared Nigeria was towards the takeoff date of AfCTA, the acting Chief Trade Negotiator said: “No country can be totally prepared. However, we cannot stop engaging with the AfCTA process because it’s important that Nigeria as a strategic country in Africa continues to lead and engage on this. We will not want others to negotiate on our behalf, we want to provide that leadership.
“But having said that, on competitiveness, there’s still more to be done. On infrastructure, we still need to do more and on the economy, we still need to do more. We still need to do more on security; but I think the current president is actually trying with respect to security.
“As you also know, we’ve moved 10 places forward in the areas of ease of doing business and so we are getting prepared somehow but you know a country can never be fully ready to go into a free trade arrangement but I hope that over time,we will be able to prepare ourselves and take advantage of the opportunities that the AfCTA represents for us. This is key to the prosperity not just of Nigeria but also of the continent.”