OVER the years, the influx of foreign goods and services in the country has undermined the competitiveness of locally produced goods. The failure of our successive governments to institute and implement far reaching policies to address the problem have encouraged dumping of even sometimes unwholesome goods in our markets, thereby harming the progress of local industries and putting consumers at risk.
It is in this regard that we welcome the agreement recently entered into by the Federal Government with a Swiss law firm, King and Spalding. The agreement is essentially to provide legal services that will remedy Nigeria’s deficient trade policies. The agreement, which was signed in Geneva, Switzerland, is on pro bono basis, which is a key element of modern trade.
Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, who is Chief Negotiator and Director of Nigeria’s Office of Trade Negotiations, signed on behalf of Nigeria, while Mr. Daniel Crosby signed for King & Spalding. Osakwe noted that the agreement became necessary because for years, Nigeria has been grappling unsuccessfully with increased cases of dumping and other injurious imports in the country. This agreement should be seen as one in a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements needed to check the influx of either finished goods or other products from European and Asian countries in our markets, thereby weakening our local industries and hampering Nigeria’s efforts at full industrialisation.
Statistics show that Nigeria has for decades become a dumping ground for all manner of cheap and low quality products. For instance, in four years alone, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) said it destroyed over N100 billion substandard imported products in our markets. The sector worst hit by this problem, according to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, is the cotton, garments and textile industry. Figures from SON show that cheap and substandard products dumped in Nigeria’s market include tyres, cables, wires, tomato paste, textile materials and many household items.
At World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2016, Nigeria’s place in the global multilateral trading system was discussed. At the end of the conference, Nigeria got anti-dumping relief that was meant to promote local industries. However, in spite of various anti-dumping agreements with many countries and trade organisations, Nigeria remains an easy destination for goods from foreign countries. This seems to suggest that government has not done enough in terms of policy implementation and granting of incentives to local manufacturers and exporters. Nigerian consumers are also not sufficiently patronising Made-in-Nigeria goods.
Dumping of foreign goods in our market will most likely continue until we put in place far reaching laws with stiff penalties to discourage dumping. One of such steps should entail a careful negotiation or renegotiation of the obligations of bilateral, regional or multilateral trade and investment agreements. We need to fully maximise our benefits from these agreements.
Nigeria is not lacking in anti-dumping legislations. Rather, the problem is the political will to enforce the laws by those charged with such mandates. One of the things we need is strict implementation and enforcement of relevant anti-dumping provisions. We also need to curb dumping. About a year ago, the House of Representatives passed an anti- dumping legislation that seeks to protect indigenous industries and producers from going under due to unfair competition from foreign firms making similar products. The legislation also seeks to regulate and control imported manufactured products sold at ridiculously low prices in Nigeria in order to stifle competition from our local industries.
Although there have been renewed calls for the re-inclusion of 41 items earlier removed from the list of products eligible for foreign exchange by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), local manufacturers said the forex restriction actually helped to curb dumping in the country. However, it is necessary to review some of the existing import laws that seem not in sync with present realities. For instance, the importation of goods into Nigeria is covered by the Customs & Excise Management Act, and the Customs & Excise Notices and Guidelines set out by the Federal Ministry of Finance. Under these provisions, importers do not need to be registered, provided they are already registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) under the Companies and Allied Matters Act Decree of 1990 which was considered a sufficient requirement to import all but a few regulated goods.
Boosting our exports is key to sustainable and inclusive development, in particular, our agricultural exports. Fixing our infrastructure deficit and supporting pro-trade policies will also go a long way in creating a conducive environment for both domestic and foreign businesses in the country.