TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Nigeria: Push for increased non-oil export to UK, US intensifies

Friday, 11 May 2018 Published: | CHIKODI OKEREOCHA

Source: Nation Online (Nigeria)

To stimulate non-oil export and diversify the economy, the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce are leading a campaign to further open up United Kingdom’s and United States’ markets to Nigerian non-oil exports.

They are exploring opportunities in increased intra-Commonwealth trade and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Experts say these can be the much-needed tonic to reposition the non-oil sector, fast-track industrialisation and create jobs. 

Nigeria’s transition to a non-oil economy is on course. The snag, however, is that the process being pushed by export-promoting agencies and regulatory authorities in the sector appears not to be moving as fast as exporters and other key stakeholders want.

Many of them, who hold this position, expect that for an economy still evidently bearing the scars of recession, efforts by the public and private sectors to put it back on track through diversification should have been more compelling and fast-tracked.

It was against this backdrop that the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) and the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), in collaboration with trade groups, export-promoting agencies and regulatory authorities are leading a renewed campaign to stimulate the non-oil export sector.

The chambers, with their partners, are essentially seeking to further open up the advanced markets of the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA) to Nigerian non-oil exports.

The NBCC is seeking to drive trade volume between Nigeria and the UK by promoting made-in-Nigeria products, particularly non-oil goods. The chamber believes that by encouraging increased intra-Commonwealth trades, particularly between Nigeria and the UK, both countries could achieve the projected trade volume of about £20 billion by 2020.

For the British High-Commissioner, Mr. Paul Arkwright, the Nigerian Government and, indeed, other developing Commonwealth countries can achieve increased non-oil export trade volumes if they engage in what he called “competitive exports.”

“The fact is if you talk to any economist who understands the way developing counties emerge from poverty into a state where they are no longer developing but developed countries, the one key thing that turns them from developing to developed countries is competitive exports,” Arkwright said.

That was when he appeared on a special television programme to review the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in London recently. He noted that CHOGM was about increasing intra-commonwealth trade by facilitating trade among member-countries.

The British Envoy added that there has been a massive trade among the 53 Commonwealth member-countries, pointing out that the trade between the UK and Nigeria is huge. He added that the Commonwealth is not just about the UK, but it is a family of nations and every member-nation stands the chance of equal benefit.

He stated that developing nations have no other option than to trade in a global world. According to him, the world trade has increased enormously and the trade between two Commonwealth countries is 20 per cent cheaper, compared with the trade with non-Commonwealth countries.

The British High-Commissioner, however, clarified that while the Commonwealth tries to reduce the barriers faced by developing countries in the area of trade, it does not mean that they would be flooded with cheap goods from other countries.

Indeed, before Arkwright’s call for competitive exports, the NBCC has been making efforts to ensure that Nigeria meets global export criteria in order to ensure goods from the country are accepted, particularly in the UK. The Chamber has been partnering with the private sector to see how it can provide facilities that will enable exporters meet standards.

Its President, Akinola Olawore, also said recently that NBCC plans to attract foreign direct investment into Nigeria, particularly from Britain and also promote efforts to build the country’s capacity to meet global export standards that could boost trade and investment portfolio.

The NBCC is also said to have earlier led a delegation of Nigerian exporters to London to explore partnership opportunities and showcase Nigerian non-oil exports. The UK trade mission, The Nation learnt, included private and public sector operators.

There were also discussions between the NBCC and London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and other stakeholders on how to smoothen the process of Nigerian non-oil exports to UK.

The NACC, on the other hand, is pushing to encourage Nigeria to take advantage of the US’ duty-free trade policy, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), to grow her non-oil export.

AGOA is the cornerstone of US trade and investment policy in Africa. The programme, which was signed into law by the US Congress in 2000, is a preferential trade agreement between the US and some eligible sub-Saharan African countries that allows the exportation of certain products into the US market tariff and quota-free.

The free-duty export programme essentially seeks to increase market access to Nigeria and 38 other eligible Sub-Saharan African countries to export about 7, 000 product lines to the US market.

The programme’s ultimate aim was to give Nigeria and other qualified African countries opportunity to build capacity in the global markets and also create jobs. Although, the Act initially covered eight years (October 2000 to September 2008), amendments signed in July 2004 extended it to September 30, 2015.

The US Congress later extended it for additional 10 years, which means that it now expires on September 30, 2025. And encouraged by the 10-year extension, NACC has stepped up efforts at promoting the expansion of US trade and investment in Nigeria through support of business partnerships between American and Nigerian companies.

In doing so, it’s National President, Chief Olabintan Famutimi, said that AGOA has proven a powerful tool for the promotion of export of goods from Nigeria and other African countries into the US. He, however, regretted that despite Nigeria’s enormous material and human resources, she remains Africa’s least beneficiary of AGOA.

Indeed, through AGOA, Nigeria can export 6,500 products duty free into the US market. This, according to development experts, is an opportunity unprecedented considering the huge market under consideration.

According to them, some of the products Nigeria can leverage on are garlic, natural honey, potato, onion, tomato, cucumber, vegetables, cabbage, chicken, goats, and milk. Others include fish, eggs, peas, beans, corn, okra, kola nuts, guava, mango, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, papayas, rice, and wheat.

Famutimi said the Chamber remained committed to promoting AGOA in Nigeria to help give fillip to the Federal Government’s on-going non-oil export drive aimed at diversifying the economy. Speaking at the Chamber’s Breakfast Meeting held in Lagos, recently, he said Nigeria could take advantage of the renewal of AGOA for another 10 years to earn huge foreign exchange and create jobs.

The NACC chief added that this was why the Chamber was partnering with strategic agencies to champion the cause for the effective implementation of AGOA in Nigeria through public sensitisation, access to finance and access to off-takers in the US.

The agencies include US Agency for International Development (USAID) and its various projects, such as Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transport (NEXTT) and West Africa Trade and Investment Hub (WATIH); Nigeria Export Promotions Council (NEPC), Bank of Industry (BoI).

Other strategic agencies involved in NACC’s renewed campaign to galvanise activities in the non-oil sector by riding on the back of AGOA include the Nigeria Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank, commercial banks; Nigerian regulatory agencies, such as Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Already, the Chamber, according to Famutimi, had done a lot of training, workshops, sensitisations, and had participated in international ventures and had worked effectively with USAID.

“We are moving and we are showing results already,” he stated, adding that with AGOA, Nigeria’s export to the US had increased far more than before.

He also said arrangements are being made for small producers to be part of the programme so as to increase their capacity, as America offers a huge market.

“We are opening the market; we are getting stakeholders and showing them the quality and packaging requirements to enter the US market,” Famutimi added.

In carrying out their campaigns, both chambers emphasised the need for Nigeria to boost non-oil export by diversifying into agricultural products, noting that exporting more of agricultural products will brighten the country’s chances of claiming a significant share of the world trade.

They also argued that stimulating the non-oil export sector will enhance the Federal Government’s revenue generation drive and also create jobs.

To the trade groups, an increased and competitive non-oil export is a sure-footed way to drive the on-going economic diversification campaign and ultimately, fast-track Nigeria’s industrialisation.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and the NEPC could not agree less.  And to demonstrate their belief in driving the non-oil export sector, LCCI and NEPC recently inaugurated an implementation committee with the primary mandate to grow the exportation of Nigerian products to the West African market.

The committee comprising regulatory agencies in the export sector such as SON, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), and NAFDAC, was also tasked with the responsibility of driving the actualisation of a project tagged “Nigeria ECOWAS Export Development (NEED)”.

The committee Chairman, Mr. Bamidele Ayemibo, described the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) market as largely untapped potential for Nigeria’s non-oil exports.

He said the NEED project would see more agricultural products in Nigeria such as cereals, snacks, plastic products, pharmaceuticals, fish and sea foods easily produced in the country and exported to the regional market.

“The effective implementation of NEED programme is key to conquering the West Africa and indeed, the African markets, especially for the medium scale businesses, and this can only be possible if this public-private partnership works,” Ayemibo said, at the inauguration of the committee.

 

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