By Felix Khanoba
The Director General of the Nigerian Office of Trade Negotiation (NOTN), Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, has allayed fears over Nigeria’s
delay in signing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement which recently came into force in 44 countries.
Osakwe said high level consultations are underway to address the concerns of some stakeholders who believe the agreement would cause some major injuries to the nation’s economy as well as their businesses.
He made this known in Abuja on Thursday while playing host to a delegation from the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) led by its Vice President, Engr Auwal Ibrahim.
While saying Nigeria has a lot to benefit from the agreement, Osakwe, who also doubles as Nigeria’s Chief Trade Negotiator, however, said there was need to protect some growing industries in the country from international trade competition.
“There are area of infant industries that need to be protected like the rice and sugar (sectors) and issue of tariffs on products like fertiliser because that has a great security implication,” Osakwe said.
Speaking further, the chief trade negotiator said as one of the major economies in the world, Nigeria cannot afford not to be part of international trade community.
“There is misconception about the meaning of free trade as if it is a trade without barriers. It is not like all the borders and custom posts will disappear or dismantle, there is nothing like that”, he said, adding that Nigeria has a lot of goods and services to be exported to countries in the continent.
Earlier, the NASME Vice President, Auwal Ibrahim said the visit was to get more clarifications on the trade agreement on the area of impact on access to market by micro and small businesses in the country.
It would be recalled that Nigeria failed to sign the African Continental Trade Area agreement in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21 over fear of its possible adverse effect on the economy.