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Why obstacles still  hinder implementation of AfCTA 11 months after take-off  

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NIGERIA and other African countries may have to wait a little longer for the full take-off of the African  Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, (AfCFTA) as grey areas are still exist, THE ICIR has learnt.

The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement came into full force in January 1 2021, but yet to take off fully.

The director-general of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations, Ambassador Yonov Agah pointed out several obstacles to the swift take off of the pact.

Agar while speaking at the the National Action Committee on African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement sub-national strategy workshop in Abuja said lots of issues are  still under negotiation by various continental regional blocs, stressing that rules of origin is still being discussed.

Apart from negotiations in the rules of origin, he said the document for trade in goods is still being negotiated.

“AfCTA is still a work in process, for now only the framework agreement has been perfected. So far, 54 countries have signed, with only 34 countries ratifying the agreements. Eritrea is yet to sign the trade agreements.

“Rules of origin, tarrif schedule trade protocols, technical barriers to trade, protocols on dispute settlement are key areas still being looked into.” Agah said.

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He said actual trading has not officially taken off as document on trading yet to be developed.

Phase 2 of the negotiations which consist of intellectual property rights, protocols, investment, women and youth empowerment are new areas of negotiations which is being discussed currently,  he added.

Similarly,  the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, Wamkele Mele told The ICIR in his recent visit to Nigeria that concerns of grey areas of the trade pact are still being sorted out.

“Overall, we are at the initial stages of the implementation. We are also still negotiating outstanding areas of phase one in trade in goods, and trade in services.. Phase two which we will start in July to August is intellectual property rights, competition policy women in trade, digital trade. We want to get it right so that our people can enjoy maximum benefits of the trade pact.” he said.

Also speaking at the event,Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters, and Secretary National Action Committee on AfCTA, Francis Anatogu told THE ICIR that taking off swiftly is better than haste fully taking off with mistakes.

According to him, the European Union project on common trade is 73 years old while the Asian free Trade Area is 30 years.

He noted that the trade pact will remove 90 percent of duties in tradeable items for over ten years, stressing that grey areas are currently being sorted out to avoid exploitation of  Nigerian markets.

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He said:”When the rule of origin negotiations are completed, certified products from Africa will have AfCTA certification to avoid dumping.”

He suggested to the sub-national representatives at the abet to work with the Federal government to target 10 percent of the African Market share to grow Nigeria’s export.

“If the states  succeed in targeting 10 per cent of their market share in exporting goods where they have competitive advantage, it would be a game-changer for our export market and a boost to our FX.”

Industry experts have maintained that sorting out areas of grey concerns is key to ensuring the swift take-off of the trade pact.

“Rules of origin need to be sorted out clearly. We have had instances where some of our neighbours like the Benin Republic are used as strategic dumping sites for some finished goods which have been rebranded as produced locally,” an associate Consultant to the British Department of International Development (DFID) Celestine Okeke told The ICIR.

Okeke stressed that without proper checks and balances, the liberalisation of trade within the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) trade could be exploited by some African countries to take advantage of the Nigerian market.

A former President of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry Adetokunbo Kayode told The ICIR that priority should also be given to the establishment of dispute resolution centres in the African Continental Free Trade Area in order to ensure swift resolution of possible trade disputes.

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