After a successful outing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2016, led by Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, the Nigerian Negotiating team is departing for Kigali, Rwanda, today for another round of text-based negotiations in the Technical Working Groups (TWG) of the Negotiating Forum for the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) The team consists of eight negotiators drawn from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Ministry of Finance It has the mandate to engage colleagues from 53 other African nations on the emerging draft substantive text of the CFTA, being reviewed in the six TWGs Meetings will go on for 11 days and the team is expected to report back proceedings to the Federal Government of Nigeria Classically, negotiators are not decision makers. Decision making, at different levels, resides with Minister Enelamah, the Economic Management Team (EMT) and ultimately the Federal Executive Council (FEC) The Chief Negotiator Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe makes recommendations to Minister Enelamah, who reports to the EMT and FEC based on the commercial, investment, and geo-strategic interests of the Nigerian economy. Negotiators are also expected to send clear, succinct reports to the Chief Negotiator. The reports will identify problems, provide assessments and ask for instructions, where instructions are required. The Nigerian trade team will continue to argue for “flexibility” that allows it to safeguard the economy from a flood of imports, even as it remains an open economy. “These negotiations are a geo-strategic imperative because of Nigeria’s standing, position and leadership. Nigeria has a duty to provide leadership, inter alia, because the CFTA negotiations are based on a mandate from the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU),” said Dr. Enelamah He continued: “Increasing intra-African trade is crucial in a global economy that is turning protectionist. The CFTA negotiations provide a huge opportunity for economic growth and increased welfare in Africa, in a global economy in rapid but uncertain transformation. At the same time, we will continue to take into cognizance the complexities of our domestic market and ensure appropriate safeguards for the Nigerian Economy.” The AU has set a deadline of December 2017 for the adoption of the CFTA. However, experienced negotiators say it is a gruelling process and adoption therefore, will depend on how much progress is made Once concluded, the CFTA will enhance the movement of goods and services, boost trade facilitation and support the Presidential Initiative on the Ease of Doing Business within the 54-member block of the continent.