In the midst of escalating concerns over the exodus of multinational manufacturing firms from Nigeria, a trade dialogue convened by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) has turned into a platform for participants to voice grievances against Nigeria’s perceived lack of fidelity to agreements with foreign investors.
According to thisdaylive.com, participants at the discourse, themed, “Trade as a Catalyst for Economic Diversification,” also said it was not yet time for Nigeria to sign an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
A communiqué issued at the end of the event stressed that the aim of the dialogue was to identify common objectives, explore avenue for collaboration, and collectively address the barriers to prosperity in the country’s trade environment.
It said, “It is not yet time for Nigeria to sign an EPA with the European Union (EU), rather the ministry should sequence our trade policy and establish some template negotiations in trade and investments.
“There is a failure of Nigeria to be faithful to agreements made with the foreign investors.”
The participants also observed that there was a lack of awareness on the availability of locally manufactured products.
The communiqué further observed that Nigeria was behind in implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and warned that lateness was dangerous in any economic integration.
“Nigeria is never short of policy documents, but implementation is always the problem,” the group pointed out.
AfCFTA provides the roadmap on how Africa can prosper in trade by eliminating tariff within the continent.
Contributors to the dialogue emphasised the need for Nigeria to leverage on the AfCFTA opportunity.
They stated that AfCFTA’s Guided Trade Initiative (GTI) would improve supply chain efficiency as a veritable catalyst for economic diversification in Nigeria.
They said strict compliance to GTI could enhance small businesses by sourcing and outsourcing raw materials from other African countries, including trading in services.
The communiqué recommended the need to domesticate AfCFTA at the national and sub-national levels through sensitisation programmes for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the gazetting of AfCFTA through the National Assembly in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It also emphasised the need to capture the country’s trade policy in line with the evolving dynamics and functional institution framework. It said there was need for Nigeria to harness its demographic strength by driving AfCFTA through production.
The communique said, “There is need to build the capacity of the SME sector to take advantage of the opportunities in the AfCFTA agreement.
“There is need for a stronger collaboration and cooperation between the organised private sector and government as a panacea for the expeditious implementation of the economic benefits from the AfCFTA.
“There is need to put in place modalities for logistics services to enable small businesses under the AfCFTA to thrive.
“There is need for continuous dialogue and effective communication between the federal government and the organised private sector to identify clusters of comparative advantage to boost trade.
“There is need for proper implementation of the policy documents as a key to the success of the trade sector, especially for the trade policy.
“There is need for the ministry to organise an in-house briefing for all staff in the ministry as well as the agencies to sensitise them on the imperatives of the trade policy.”
According to the group, there is also need for the trade policy to form the basis of Nigeria’s bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations and agreements and to circulate a copy of Nigeria’s trade policy to the embassies across the globe.
They called for linkage between the Nigerian industrial, trade and investment policies as a basis for effective implementation to transform the country into an industrialised economy.
Contributors also called for revival of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in line with its tripod mandates of industry, trade and investment, and sought for a critical balance between Nigeria’s imports and exports to ensure the sustainability of the economy.
They said there was need for ratification and domestication of treaties in order to be legally binding and for government to make deliberate emphasis on quality control to avoid flooding markets with sub-standard products.
The communiqué further stated, “There is need for government to support SMEs through processes of labelling and packaging for them to become proactive in the production of quality products to build their competitiveness and for a trade data bank on the flow of goods and services.
“There is need for a closer collaboration between the border agencies, such as the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS), to enhance trade facilitation and for an awareness campaign on made in Nigeria products and quality assurance.”
It called for implementation of measures to simplify trade procedures and reduce bureaucratic measures.
FMITI organised the maiden edition of the trade dialogue as a platform for public and private stakeholders to converge with a view to exchanging ideas and forging partnerships that would promote economic growth and development.
Participants at the trade dialogue included Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Permanent Secretary, FMITI, and representatives of World Bank and Bank of Industry (BoI).