Free Zones Enterprises Commend Nigerian Trade Negotiator over Change in ECOWAS Rules of Origin
For lobbying ECOWAS to change its position on rules of origin on goods from special economic zones(SEZs) , free zones enterprises (AFZE) from all over Nigeria have commended the Nigerian Acting Chief Trade Negotiator and Director General of Office of Trade Negotiation, Victor Liman.
The enterprises located within the over 40 special economic zones in Nigeria through their umbrella association described the Trade negotiator as “a smart trade diplomat who has rescued Nigeria from likely huge loss of multi billion naira state investment and a distortion in foreign direct investment if goods from SEZs are banned from enjoying AFCTA preferential treatment.
The trade negotiator had led Nigeria to reject ECOWAS position on rules of origin as it affects goods produced with special economic zones, working on the regional body to review her position on the issue.
ECOWAS under its trade Liberalisation Scheme had excluded such free zones goods from rule of origin application , a situation that threatens Nigeria’s interest as a country with the highest number of special economic zones in West African region.
ECOWAS position if maintained will imply that goods from free zones will not enjoy preferential treatments and other privileges conferred on goods recognised as originating from AFCTA member nations under the rule of origin.
Industry stakeholders noted that ECOWAS position means that goods produced within Nigerian special economic zones (SEZs) would not be regarded as emanating from Nigeria , thereby denying bulk of made in Nigerian goods of benefits of AFCTA.
At the recent expert meeting of ECOWAS Minister of Trade, Nigerian Representative and the acting Director General of the Office of Trade Negotiation opposed the ECOWAS position, describing it as injurious to Nigerian economic interest and a self imposed handicap on the sub-regional.bloc
The Nigerian expert stated that ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme does not recognise goods prepared within SEZs as originating from ECOWAS region, thereby denying the SEZs’ originating goods from West Africa the preferential treatment to be enjoyed by SEZs goods from Southern and East African blocs.
The acting trade negotiator was also quoted as opining that unless the situation changed, FDI inflow into Nigeria will be negatively impacted as SEZs investors will be badly affected in trading operations across the region.
While pressurising ECOWAS on the matter, the Trade negotiator cited ECOWAS as the only regional economic bloc that does not accept SEZs’ goods for the application of rules of origin, a development that will put west African region and Nigeria in particular at a disdvantage within the wider context of AFCTA.
Mr. Toyin Elegbede, the Executive Director of the Nigeria Economic Zones Association (NEZ Association) speaking on behalf of operators of Free Zone Enterprises noted that but for the intervention of the Trade negotiator , billions of dollars in foreign direct investment would have been jeopardised and further inflow distorted, lauding the Trade Chief for timely intervention.
Elegbede further urged ECOWAS to emulate other regional economic blocs by swiftly amending its trade Liberalisation Scheme to recognise goods from the SEZs as originating from ECOWAS region.