July 28, 2019 / 3:43 PM / 4 months ago

Nigeria plots course to membership of Africa's planned free trade zone

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria is backing its commitment to join Africa’s recently agreed free trade zone by setting up a committee to implement the agreement, and promising new laws where necessary to enact membership of the pact, the presidency said on Sunday.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), launched by African leaders on July 7, will if successful create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development.

Nigeria joined AfCFTA despite initial reluctance due to a desire to ensure it would not open local industries to dumping from countries outside the region, and its decision is an important endorsement as the largest economy on the continent.

The presidency said it would set up a committee made up of government agencies and private sector groups to implement the trade agreement.

In preparing Nigeria for the pact, President Muhammadu Buhari needs to approve a number of measures which would facilitate trade and boost local capacity to produce and export goods and services, among other policies, it said.

“Overall, the implementation of the AfCFTA is going to be a long journey,” it said. “Nigeria is committed to ensuring that Africa achieves a free and fair trade environment ... through increased intra-African trade.”

The African Development Bank president told Reuters on Saturday that African nations will need to boost output of goods and services and integrate payment systems if they are to take advantage of the initiative.

The AfCFTA agreement, which creates a single market for goods and services and movement of persons to increase intra-African trade and deepen African economic integration, would be implemented in phases.

The first phase will be to establish a protocol for trade in goods and services and dispute settlement rules. The second will cover competition, investment and intellectual property rights, with negotiations due to start next year.

Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by David Holmes

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