TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Nigeria, ECOWAS partner to boost bilateral trade

Monday, 09 November 2009

Source: 234Next (Nigeria)

To ensure proper articulation and harmonisation of Nigeria's position on bilateral trade negotiations as well as promote the country's interest in the World Trade Organisation, an Enlarged National Focal Point (ENFP) committee has been re-inaugurated.

The inauguration was done on Friday by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The committee will be responsible for reflecting, brainstorming and advising the government on decisions relating to domestic and international trade negotiations.

Considering the present near-crude level of Nigeria’s trade co-operation, it has become imperative to build strong institutional capacity that will ensure active and quality participation of the two parties in the various bilateral, regional and multi-trade negotiations in which Nigeria is involved. The ENFP is an inter-institutional committee comprising key economic ministries, departments, agencies, members of the organised private sector, academics, professional bodies, legislators among others.

The role of the committee

One of their key roles is to provide technical backstopping for the ministry and the Nigerian trade office in Geneva, Switzerland in the daily negotiation at World Trade Organisation.

The minister of commerce and industry, Achike Udenwa, at the inauguration of the committee in Abuja, said there is a dire need for consistent review and reappraisal of Nigeria’s position on trade issues.

“As you may be aware, the rapid globalisation has made it imperative for Nigeria to constantly review and reappraise its position on some trade and trade related issues, as well as the emerging trends in the multilateral trading system,” he said.

Mr. Udenwa added that it is against this backdrop that the government is committed to the process of integrating Nigeria’s economy into the multilateral trading system: “a process that requires mainstreaming trade into our national development agenda.”

The minister lamented that the ENFP has not been able to effectively deliver on its mandate since it was established. “It is in order to address this situation that my ministry decides to re-inaugurate this enlarged committee, which is expected to play its well defined role as approved by the Federal Executive council,” he said.

The committee structure

Based on the approved structure, the ENFP is expected to have a committee of chief executives of companies from key sectors and organisations, which will not only provide input into the NFP process, but also serve as a veritable avenue for the dissemination of information to stakeholders on the outcome of negotiations so as to take full advantage of the available opportunities as well as adjust to any new obligations.

The subcommittee is also to serve as an interface between the policy makers and actual beneficiaries in the private sector, thereby engendering public-private sector cooperation.

The ENFP will also comprise committees on agriculture, Non-Agriculture Market Access (NAMA), services, trade and environment, fisheries, trade facilitation, domestic trade matters, preferential trade agreement (AGOA), D8, EPA, etc), bilateral trade agreements (TIFA, TICA, GICA), Aid for Trade (AFT), Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), public enlightenment and publicity among others.

The minister, however, pointed out that membership of the ENFP will be expected to break into these various committees, as it is anticipated that Nigeria’s position on trade and trade-related issues shall be established through active participation by members and based on bottom-up approach.

“This implies that an issue related to agriculture, for instance, would first of all be examined and subjected to robust contribution by stakeholders in agriculture committee before submitting its recommendation to the ENFP for further considerations,” he explained.

Lauding this development, President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Bashir Borodo, said the inauguration of the ENFP is a welcome development expected to revitalise Nigeria’s bilateral trade negotiations.

Mr. Borodo added that inactivity has been synonymous with several trade agreements that the country has signed. “It is in order. Often our problem is that we have signed on to many agreements without looking at them very well or following it up to reap the benefits. In principle, it is alright if we have the right people in place,” he said.

 

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