Why I refused to sign free trade agreement — Buhari

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Why I refused to sign free trade agreement — Buhari

Why I refused to sign free trade agreement — Buhari
July 15
07:21 2018

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday, explained why he had yet to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement which is expected to increase intra-African trade by 52.3 per cent from the current 19 per cent.

The Federal Executive Council had, on March 14, approved that Nigeria should sign the framework agreement for the establishment of the initiative.

But a few days to the signing of the agreement, Buhari opted out of the African Union meeting where the pact would be signed by 55 African countries.

Already, 44 African countries had endorsed the agreement which would enable them to form a $3tn continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people.

The CFTA identifies seven priority action clusters for its implementation.

They are trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade-related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information, and factor market integration.

But speaking at the opening ceremony of the 25th General meeting of shareholders of African Export-Import Bank in Abuja, he stated that the complexity of Nigeria’s environment had made it imperative for him to consult with all stakeholders before such agreement was entered into.

He said with a country as big as Nigeria with a population size of about 200 million people, there was a need to carry all stakeholders along in the process of entering such a pact.

He said, “In Africa, Nigeria has a very unique role to play. We are a vast nation of nearly 200 million people with diverse language, culture and natural endowment and aspirations.

“What we all have in common at all levels is that Nigeria is a trading nation, no nation can survive on its own.

“Trading is important and the terms of trade are important. Therefore, there is a need to ensure our national interest as well as our regional and international obligations are balanced.

“Accordingly, I have directed the relevant agencies to conduct intensive and extensive consultations across the nation on the Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“Nigeria is a federation of 36 states plus Federal Capital Territory Abuja, 774 Local Governments and millions of interested stakeholders who must be consulted with and listened to in order to ensure an optimal outcome.

“Significant progress has been made with these consultations. The team has met key stakeholders across our six geopolitical zones; the responses are diverse as should be expected.

“However, one clear message has emerged which is that any agreement must be both free and fair.”

The President explained that Africa’s drive for prosperity could only be achieved by supporting inclusive and sustainable projects.

Buhari said his administration had adopted a policy of inclusive growth, adding that his government was determined to achieve this by reducing the country’s over reliance on crude oil.

“Till date, we have invested aggressively in infrastructure to support our growth potential in agriculture and solid minerals.

“We are also empowering many Nigerian entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry to mention a few,” he added.

At the event, a total loan facility of $1.4bn was disbursed by AFREXIM Bank to the Bank of Industry and Dangote Group.

A breakdown of the amount showed that $750m was given to the Bank of Industry for lending to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sector, while the balance of $650m was provided to Dangote group to finance its refinery project.

The Managing Director, Bank of Industry, Olukayode Pitan, signed the agreement on behalf of his bank while the President of Dangote Group, Mr Aliko Dangote, signed for his company.

The President of AFREXIM Bank, Dr Benedict Oranmah, while giving a presentation on the performance of the bank for 2017, said the bank had grown to become a force for positive change in Africa

He said the resilience of the bank was tested in 2015 and 2016 due to commodity shocks that threatened the progress made by the continent.

He said the commodity shocks were what made the bank to intervene so as to stabilise trade default that was threatening the payment system in the continent.

He said as of December 2017, about $9bn was disbursed on a revolving basis to stabilise trade default on the continent.

He said the bank had also spent about $1.5bn on building industrial parks in some countries within the continent.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has been elected as the new Chairman of the AFREXIM Bank General Assembly.

She takes over from Rwanda’s Minister of Finance, Dr Ndagijimane Uzziel .

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