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Statement on Zero Draft Ecowas Common Trade Policy By Constance Ikokwu

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The Nigerian Government welcomes and appreciates the step by the ECOWAS Commission to initiate consultations on an ECOWAS-wide zero draft Trade Policy. The initiation of this process is essential and timely in a rapidly changing Continental and global economic and trade policy landscape. We congratulate H.E. Mr. Marcel Alain de Souza, President of the ECOWAS Commission and his Team for his leadership. We acknowledge the presence and leadership of H.E. Mr. Laoulai CHAIBOU, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement.

In Africa, negotiations are underway to establish a Single Integrated Market for Trade in Goods and Services in the “African Continental Free Trade Area” (CFTA). This first stage of the CFTA negotiations for Trade in Goods and Services shall be followed by the next stage of negotiations in Competition Policy; Investment and Intellectual Property.

At the WTO, this year, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) entered into force. Currently, negotiations are underway, preparatory for the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December, this year. Also, at this stage, a number of Parties and countries seek economic and trading arrangements, in different formats and configurations with ECOWAS. These expanding contacts present opportunities to be carefully examined in the context of active and real-time engagement with all Members of ECOWAS.

These changes amongst others shall require deeper integration in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Our central purpose remains unchanged, namely, to foster deeper integration, reducing barriers between and amongst our countries, so as to link our manufacturing structures, expand opportunities for our service providers to accelerate growth and expand job opportunities.

The Federal Government of Nigeria shall continue to provide the necessary leadership required to foster deeper integration in ECOWAS.

On the Zero Draft ECOWAS CTP presented to regional stakeholders, the position of Nigeria is that:
The Draft ECOWAS CTP requires wide-ranging domestic analysis and consultations within our various countries, with stakeholders. This process is just about to be initiated in Nigeria.
Written inputs from Member States, who have a position, should be circulated through the ECOWAS Commission, to all ECOWAS Members, as the process evolves, to enable review by all Member States.

At this stage, Nigeria hereby signals the proposal for the establishment of an ECOWAS Trade Policy Committee (ECOWAS TPC), consisting of designated Chief Negotiators of ECOWAS Members. Nigeria shall be circulating a Note on this TPC. Based on the proposal being finalized, this ECOWAS TPC shall recommend mandates, priorities and positions to ECOWAS principals. Such an institution shall create partnerships and ensure ownership as Members deepen and extend economic and trade policy integration in our region.

Also, Nigeria is proposing an ECOWAS Committee for the “African Continental Free Trade Area” (CFTA). On the margins of the 7th Session of the Negotiating Forum of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), in Addis, this month, Nigeria suggested to ECOWAS Chief Negotiators the establishment of an ECOWAS – CFTA Committee. The Continental Free Trade Area is being negotiated, inter alia, on the foundation of the acquis emerging from the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as ECOWAS. CFTA Commitments and its implementation shall be wide-ranging and far-reaching. Nigeria considers that implementation of the balance of rights and obligations shall be facilitated by the active engagement of ECOWAS Member States in an ECOWAS CFTA Committee.

Nigeria shall be elaborating on these proposals which we are signalling here at this initial meeting to consider an ECOWAS-wide zero draft Trade Policy.

Nigeria seizes this opportunity to remind fellow ECOWAS Members of the High-Level Policy and Private Sector Forum on Trade and Investment Facilitation for Development, to be held in Abuja, from 2nd to 3rd November 2017, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel. A central purpose of this High-Level Forum, inter alia, is to expand the basis for cooperation and deeper economic and trade policy integration in ECOWAS and Africa at large, through Trade and Investment Facilitation for Development. This is why the Federal Government of Nigeria is co-hosting this High-Level Activity with the ECOWAS Commission and WTO Friends of Investment Facilitation for Development (FIFD). The Federal Government of Nigeria looks forward to welcoming you all in Abuja. Nigeria would be pleased to facilitate the travel to and accommodation in Abuja for those Members who would need such assistance.

Nigeria requests the ECOWAS Commission to circulate this Statement to all Members of ECOWAS.

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