Bureaucratic bottlenecks in the registration of products under the ECOWAS Trade Liberation Scheme (ETLS), currently being managed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry are impede export goods from Nigeria to other West African countries, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has said.
The ETLS is the main ECOWAS operational tool for promoting the West African region as a Free Trade Area.
The protocol lies in tandem with the one of the objectives of the Community, which is the establishment of a common market through, “the liberalisation of trade by the abolition, among member states, of customs duties levied on imports and exports, and of non-tariff barriers…”
According to the Chamber, the fusion of the Ministry of Integration and Economic Cooperation, which had responsibility for facilitating trade with other African countries, into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has further increased the officialdom in the region.
LCCI President, Babatunde Ruwase, while addressing journalists yesterday, (Thursday), said the administration of ETLS should be moved from Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, specifically, the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), to improve the administration of trade protocol and serve exporters better.
Besides, the Chamber has also aligned with the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) on the ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), saying the country should sign the agreement, since signing is the first step in the negotiation process.
Justifying the Chamber’s position, Ruwase said Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had given assurance that selected sectors of the economy would enjoy protection, and the desired impact study will be done.
“LCCI also participated in the forum organised by the Nigeria office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), headed by Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe.
In all of these interactions, we have assurance that safe-guard measures would be put in place to protect sensitive sectors of the economy, most of these are in the manufacturing sector.
“There would be subsequent protocols that need to be discussed and negotiated as they relate to specific sectors.
It is also our understanding that adjustment could also be made as the process progresses.
We should see the entire process and integration arrangement as work in progress.
“Trade issues are not static, they are dynamic. It is important to be part of the process in order to influence the direction of the agreement and protect our interest.
If we can be part of the ECOWAS, we believe that we can also be part of AfCFTA.
The safe-guard measures in ECOWAS can be replicated in the AfCFTA. The reality is that no economy can exist in isolation of other economies,” he added.
The LCCI also commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for creating a single digit interest rate window through the issuance of Commercial Papers by large firms, especially for the real sector, noting that it is gratifying that the window also offers long term facility of up to seven years tenure.
“However, there is a need for the apex bank to have a broader view of the economy, as sectors other than the real sector also have tremendous impact on the economy, and in fact complements the real sector, which is why there should be an economy wide view.
The service sector contributes over 55%of the GDP and has the capacity to contribute more if the desired support is provided,” Ruwase added.
Source: G Business