Association urges FG not to sign e-commerce agreement

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The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTs), has urged the Federal Government to desist from further negotiations and subsequent signing of e-commerce agreement at the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Ken Ukaoha, the President of NANTs said this in Abuja on Thursday during a news conference. According to him, e-commerce negotiation rules has many implication that are yet to be examined.

Ukaoha expressed displeasure that Nigerian government had begun e-commerce negotiations with Friends of E-Commerce for development
without due consultations with stakeholders of the economy on the benefits or otherwise of such agreements or membership.

He said NANTs was concerned about the process involving Nigeria in various international agreements, especially when these agreements hadtto do with trade which had taken a highly technical dimension in contemporary times.

The Nigerian Government through its representatives at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC 11) held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 2017. He said the conference committed the country to some agreements such as the European Free Trade Association Joint Declaration on Corporation, Friends of Investment Facilitation for Development and Friends of E-Commerce for Development.

Ukaoha pointed out that in view of the forthcoming World Economic Forum which would commence on January 25 in Davos, Switzerland, the subject of e-commerce would be extensively discussed at the meeting.
He expressed concern that Nigeria might be dragged into signing the agreement which would be detrimental to the growth and development of the country.

“Our fear is that Nigeria and particularly those that made commitments at the above-mentioned MC11 on behalf of Nigeria have not till today made any attempt at facilitating dialogue or consultation on the subject of e-commerce among economic stakeholders.
“There is the likelihood that the country may be driving deeper into the subject of e-commerce either oblivious or careless of the
implications on the economic operators and the nation’s economy as a whole.

“We vehemently frown at the understanding that Nigeria is being dragged into this agreement from the backdoor without proper analysis and due consultations on the merits and demerits thereof to the nation.

“More importantly, an implicit evaluation of the nation’s capacity to either negotiate or benefit from the subject of e-commerce.’’ Ukaoha said that Nigeria was the only African country in the membership of the so-called friends of e-commerce, adding that it was against all advice from the African Group at the WTO.

He then called on well meaning Nigerians to reject the e-commerce negotiations involving Nigeria and Friends of E-Commerce for
Development. “Having worked closely with partners in developing countries, I witnessed the devastating impacts of previous free trade agreements on small-scale farmers, infant industries and their communities.

“We call on the business community, citizens, groups and government to reject the e-commerce negotiations in the WTO. “NANTS supports fair trade, sustainable development and democratic practice, and unfortunately, the e-commerce negotiations at the WTO fail to support any of these principles.

“The Nigeria law and policy regarding online businesses as well as the relevant economic governance issues and regulatory practices affecting the regional (ECOWAS) and continental (AU) market place are weak.

“We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to reject the e-commerce negotiations and immediately opt out and withdraw Nigeria’s membership of the friends of E-commerce for Development Forum,’’ Ukaoha said.

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