FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed disappointment over President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign Africa Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, agreement. Obasanjo and Buhari According to him, it will be better for the President to sign the agreement before it is too late. Forty-four African countries had last week signed the historic free-trade zone agreement, which is the largest in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.
The African countries seek to form a $2.5 trillion continental free-trade zone. Explaining its decision not to sign, the Federal Government had said a committee was reviewing the treaty and that it needed more input from stakeholders. Reacting during a presidential panel at the Africa CEO Forum in Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday, Obasanjo said: “That President Buhari didn’t sign the free trade agreement in Kigali is disappointing. I hope he signs it before it is too late. “Egypt started the discussion on the formation of Organisation of African Unity but didn’t conclude it and Nigeria took over. “Nigeria was also central to the discussion of the free trade agreement, but I am surprised that the country withdrew from signing.” Prior to the signing of the agreement, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN; Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, NECA, had advised the Federal Government to exercise caution so as not to make the country a dumping ground for foreign products. MAN urged the government to renegotiate trade conditions that will impede economic growth in its review of the AfCFTA agreement. “We are afraid that the rules of origin cannot be adequately enforced because goods from the EU can find their way into one of the African countries that have bilateral agreement with the EU. “When the goods get into the African country, they can repackage them, change the label from made in Europe to that of the African country. “That same goods will surely find its way to Nigeria which is the main target market for the EU,’’ Frank Jacob, president of MAN, had said. President Buhari also vowed last week not to make the country a dumping ground for foreign products