Capacity Building Workshop on Stakeholder Engagement on African Trade Policies and ECOWAS Regional Trade Policy Dialogue Forum
The African Union Commission (AUC), in partnership with the ECOWAS Commission and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), organized a Capacity Building Workshop on Stakeholder Engagement on African Trade Policies and ECOWAS Regional Trade Policy Dialogue Forum from 24-27 April 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria.
On invitation of the African Union Commission, the Trade Law Centre (tralac) represented by its Alumni took part in this workshop. These alumni were:
- Chikeze Adindu Isiguzo – Nigeria (Trade in Services)
- Cham Etienne Bama – Cameroon (Trade in Goods)
Placed under the chairmanship of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, represented by Mr. Jonathan Ubani, the four-day workshop aimed at training and building the capacity of stakeholders in ECOWAS Member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) on trade and trade-related policies as well as in the formulation, negotiation and implementation of trade policies. While opening the workshop, Mr. Ubani expressed Nigeria’s readiness to sign the AfCFTA after the Presidential Committee for Impact and Readiness Assessment of the African Continental Free Trade Area handed in its report.
On his part, Mr. Jean Bertrand Azapmo, the Regional Trade Adviser, Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission representing the Director for Trade and Industry of the AUC said, emphasized the multi-stakeholder approach of the workshop is to ensure the inclusivity and inclusiveness of trade policy-making and implementation process. As he said: “government officials alone, without other stakeholders cannot handle trade policy development, formulation and implementation”.
In his keynote address, The Director of Trade of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Gbenga Obideyi, highlighted the role of ECOWAS as one of the building blocks of the African Economic Community. This he said is evident as 13 out of 15 Member States have already signed the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will establish the world’s largest free trade area by number of participating countries.
Participants engaged actively throughout the four days. They represented Government Ministries and Agencies, Civil Society Organizations, Private Sector, Academia and research institutions, youths and women.
Participants were given group work to do stakeholder mapping – this was later presented to by each group leader to all participants.
An overview of the African Trade Observatory, ECOWAS stakeholder’s engagement, and ECOWAS and the AfCFTA, was presented by officials of the African Union Commission and ECOWAS Commission gave participants an idea on current trade and trade related developments on the continent and a detailed understanding on how ECOWAS AfCFTA negotiations were carried out.
With regards to the ECOWAS AfCFTA negotiations, participants were informed that, article 85(2) of ECOWAS Revised Treaty on International Negotiations mandates the REC to prepare studies and reports to help Member States to harmonize better their positions on the said issues. It is under this sub section 2 that the Community adopted a common position on the tariff liberalization timeline requesting all Member States to do so within the same time frame contrary to the principle of special and differential treatment granting LDCs an extended period of tariff liberalization.
The Community equally adopted a position to avoid tariff concession concentration which might result in actually lesser trade than expected under the AfCFTA. To resolve this concentration issue, ECOWAS Member States have agreed to include all chapters of the HS Code in their tariff concession which will enable substantial trade flows under the AfCFTA.
Participants paid a courtesy call at Abuja Chamber of Commerce and were taken on a guided tour after a welcome address in which the President, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, assured the delegation of Nigeria’s readiness to be part of the continental agenda.