Trade can be a game changer for Nigerian economy – Okonjo-Iweala

By Felix Khanoba

The Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has expressed the need for Nigeria to leverage on its trade potentials to turnaround  the nation’s economy. 

Okonjo-Iweala said Nigeria’s share in world’s trade- 0.33percent and  in Africa – 19 percent is a small fraction of what the country can achieve.

The newly elected WTO boss stated this during a visit to the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment on Monday in Abuja.

While saying that trade could be instrumental to ensuring a robust economy, Okonjo-Iweala said all that is needed to be done is for Nigeria to add more value to its products and improve  infrastructure to deliver trade. 

She said : “Nigeria is 103 out 167 counties in logistics and that means we have a long way to go and for me that is a potential area we can invest to improve our logistics so we can take advantage of trade within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. 

“We have difficulty and challenges with our economy, we have to move fast, we have potential to do so much better and trade is a very strong part of that story”. 

The WTO DG, however, said Nigeria is very active in World Trade especially in the area of  Agriculture and Joint Statement initiatives.

“Trade negotiations on agricultural issues are very important to us and we are very active there, Nigeria is a leader on issues of e commerce, services domestic regulations, investment facilitation, micro small and medium enterprises and women in trade,” she said. 

Speaking further, the former Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, said the WTO would work with Nigeria to help deliver support directly with its resources in technical assistance, training and quality upgrade as well as help in unlocking some of the bottlenecks that confronts the country.

“The WTO is about supporting investment’s and supporting infrastructure in technical assistance, it’s not a financial institution but it works with financial institutions, it is one of the economic institutions that was created with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These are three powerful institutions that are working together can deliver a lot.” She said.

The WTO boss expressed hope that Nigeria will take a very active supportive role in helping her deliver on some of the mandates.

“The WTO faces many challenges and also needs its own reforms to deliver results, the organization has not delivered a multilateral round of negotiations in quite a number of years and we have the unique opportunity of delivering the fishery subsidy negotiations. 

“The dispute settlement system that is paralysed, we have to discuss with all members including the United States on how to make this work again, because the rules based organisation cannot continue to make rules if the dispute settlement system does not work”. Dr Okojo- Iweala posited.

On his part,  the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, congratulated Okonjo-Iweala on her emergence as the Director General of WTO. 

The minister hinted to the DG on some of the country’s expectations regarding engagements in ongoing negotiations and discussions. 

“On the ongoing agriculture negotiation, Nigeria expects a balanced and equitable outcome that addresses structural causes of food and livelihood insecurity in Net Food Importing Developing Countries (NFIDC) and Least Developed Countries (LDC).

“On the Fishery Subsidy Negotiations we look forward to outcomes that result in reduction in overfishing and  unsustainable fishing practices with effective differential treatment that allows a sustainable development of  developing countries, ” Adebayo said.

Also speaking, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb Maryam Katagum, urged the DG not to forget the commitment to sustain and enhance the ongoing dialogue and action on ‘women in trade’, as a firm believer in the power of trade to lift developing countries, including Nigeria out of poverty.

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