By James Emejo
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, yesterday restated the federal government’s commitment to ratifying the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCTA) prior to its implementation in January 2021.
Though President Muhammadu Buhari had signed the agreement on July 7, 2019, the country had not been able to deposit the instrument of ratification due to ongoing consultations with critical stakeholders.
There had been concerns over the country’s readiness for intra-African trade considering several factors, including the local production, infrastructure among others.
But speaking while receiving the Secretary-General of AfCTA Secretariat, Mr. Wamkele Mene, who is on a working visit to the country since assumption of office, the minister said though COVID-19 had delayed the initial takeoff of the agreement, Nigeria remained firmly committed to its implementation.
He said a memo would soon be transmitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval for the ratification of the agreement prior to its proposed launch date.
Adebayo maintained that the country remained committed to intra-region trade and would do everything to ensure its successful implementation for the benefit of the continent.
According to him, “We are working day and night to get us ready, and we are at a point where we will soon take a memo to the Federal Executive Council for approval for ratification before the official date for the takeoff of the agreement.
“But Nigeria remains committed to intra-region trade, and we will, as members of the agreement, do everything possible to make sure that everything works out well, and that we are able to grow this trade for the benefit and wellbeing of all the people of Africa.”
However, Mene had argued that contrary to criticisms, the AFCTA should not lead to job losses for member countries, adding that the continent will oppose the transshipment of goods from third countries which are not entitled to the benefits of the agreement.
He said: “That means we have to work extremely hard to establish the mechanisms of system for fighting transshipment of products and fight third country goods that are not entitled to AFCTA benefits.
“So we cannot allow third country goods distorting the local market and leading to job losses. We don’t want this agreement to lead to job losses. We can’t allow third countries to distort our local market.”