“Modernizing and Growing the Nigerian Economy through African Trade Integration and CFTA Negotiations”

Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning and thank you for coming.
I am delighted to welcome you all to this meeting to inaugurate Nigeria’s “National Committee for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations”.
2. The inauguration of this National Committee is a call to national duty. It is part of a broader overall architecture for a revamped and modernized infrastructure for the conduct and management of Nigeria’s Trade Policy and Negotiations that the Government is working hard to set-up, under the leadership of HIS Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic Management Team (EMT).
3. In giving his approval for the establishment of this National Committee, His Excellency, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, asked that we work together to make the CFTA negotiations count, as part of the efforts of the Government to restore robust and sustained growth in the Nigerian economy. In working together, we have to make trade count, calculably and concretely, as an engine for growth.
4. Trade negotiations should neither be an intellectual nor a speech-making exercise, un-related to the domestic economy. For an economy such as ours in Nigeria, trade negotiations must produce welfare gains and development dividends; otherwise we should neither engage nor participate nor sign on to their results. This is the firm position of Government.
5. Let me also state that the entirety of the economic plans and strategies of Government are unified. The strategic economic directions of the Government are set in the context of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), launched by H.E. Mr. President on 5th April 2017.
6. In launching the ERGP, Mr. President stated, inter alia,
QUOTE: “I want to assure all Nigerians that we are approaching the solution to our economic challenges with the same will and commitment, we have demonstrated in the fight against corruption and in the fight against terrorism and militancy.
The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan brings together all our sectoral plans for agriculture and food security, energy and transport infrastructure, industrialization and social investments together in a single document. It builds on the Strategic Implementation Plan and sets out an ambitious roadmap to return the economy to growth; and to achieve a 7% growth rate by 2020.
Our aim simply put, is to optimise local content and empower local businesses. We seek not just to take the Nigerian economy out of recession, but to place it on a path of sustained, inclusive and diversified growth.” UNQUOTE
7. It is in this strategic policy framework that we are gathered here today to launch the National Committee for the CFTA Negotiations.
8. On the CFTA, African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government, at their Summit in 2012, decided to establish a Continental Free Trade Area. This was and remains a worthy objective for the Continent. The CFTA is part of Africa’s plan to industrialize the Continent by 2063. It is integral to the decision to boost Intra-Africa trade, currently, at a low 19%. It is not right that African economies trade more with partners outside of the Continent than within the Continent. There is ample scope for improvement and expansion of African trade. The Nigerian Economic Team is determined to change this situation.
9. Because of our economic and trade policy priorities and the size and imperatives of the Nigerian economy, the Government is determined that, working together with the Organized Private Sector, Nigeria plays a leadership role in the CFTA negotiations, in ways that shall yield growth and development dividends for the Nigerian economy. There is an unhealthy list of results from Nigerian trade negotiations that have generated costs and failures for the economy, rather than gains for growth and modernization for the Nigerian economy.
10. Today, Nigeria is the Number 1 Economy in Africa. We must work hard not only to sustain this Continental position but to do better by increasing our ranking in the league of the world’s top economies. This would require focus, discipline, organization, determination and the exercise of that famous entrepreneurial spirit for which Nigerians are renowned the world-over. We must channel and direct our energies.
11. Across the global economy, Nigerians are excelling. The challenge is to do this here at home, in Nigeria. In some niches, we are starting to record successes, for instance, Nigerian Operators in the Digital Economy, including E-Commerce, and in the positive results, so far, from the 60-Day Action Plan in our Implementation of the “Presidential Initiative on the Ease of Doing Business”.
12. The inauguration of the National Committee for the CFTA, today, is therefore, intended to reinforce the process for national economic recovery and development, across all areas. Today’s inauguration is auspicious and timely.
13. Clear goals have been identified for Nigeria’s engagement in the CFTA Negotiations. They include using the CFTA negotiations to:
• Secure calculable and concrete gains from the CFTA negotiations that contribute to the efforts of the Nigerian Government to modernize, diversify and grow the Nigerian economy;
• Link and predicate Nigeria’s trade obligations and commitments to inward investments in the Nigerian economy. Foreign partners who express interest for market access in the Nigerian economy should demonstrate partnership fairness and equity by investing and locating production value chains in Nigeria. Trade negotiations must demonstrate win-win gains on 21st Century Terms;
• Support Nigerian exporters of goods and services to secure expandedmarket access in other African economies, based on carefully negotiated and constructed value chains,so that Nigerian exporters gain from the value distribution in regional, continental and global supply chains; and,
• Create jobs for Nigerians.
Terms of Reference:
14. Ladies and Gentlemen, you have been selected, carefully, from key sectors of the Nigerian economy because of your wealth of experience on trade.
15. It is against this background and in the light of the strategic goals of the Nigerian Negotiating Team in the CFTA Negotiations that Terms of Reference for this National Committee for the CFTA negotiations are, principally, to:
I. Serve and advise Government, as the national multi-stakeholder technical platform on the CFTA Negotiations, across all the negotiating areas, including, but not limited to goods, services, investment, competition and intellectual property;
II. Monitor the negotiations and undertake analysis to ensure that the negotiations and emerging results approximate the goals for the negotiations established by the Government;
III. Identify the opportunities and challenges facing the country in trade with other African countries, both intra and Inter-Regional Economic Communities (REC); and,
IV. Participate in the negotiations, as appropriate.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
16. Given the multi-sectoral membership of the National Committee, the range of thematic and market access issues for the CFTA negotiations, and the fact that the negotiations are already underway – currently about to start its 6th Session – speed, urgency, technical and policy engagement are required, now.
17. Your technical and policy engagement matter. If the results from the CFTA negotiations will yield gains for growth for Nigeria, the Government will sign on to the results. If not, our negotiators shall sustain the negotiations until they produce satisfactory and win-win results.
18. Now, it is my singular honour and privilege, on behalf of H.E. Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to inaugurate this National Committee for CFTA. I wish you all the start of hard technical and policy work, to use the CFTA Negotiations to diversify, modernize, drive growth and create jobs in the Nigerian economy.
19. Thank you and God bless.