…Too Small to Boost Economic Development – Okonjo-Iweala
The Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that the share of Nigeria’s global trade which stands at about 0.33 per cent was too small to boost the country’s economic aspirations.
She said this on Monday in Abuja during her visit to the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Mr Adeniyi Adebayo. She said that the WTO would support Nigeria through Technical Assistance, Training and Quality upgrade to boost the share of global trade from the low figure of 0.33 per cent to a much larger scale.
She added that even at the continental level, the share of Nigeria’s trade which is currently 19 per cent is too small compared to what the country can achieve.
She explained that the Federal Government must step up action on its economy, stating that trade can be instrumental if Nigeria can add more value to its products and improve its infrastructure to deliver trade.
She said, “Nigeria is very active in agriculture bearing in mind that we have a diversified economy in Nigeria, where agriculture is extremely important even though we don’t have a diversified source of revenue but we have a diversified economy.
“Trade negotiations on agricultural issues are very important for us and we are very active there. We are also active in the joint statement initiatives, Nigeria is a leader on issues of e-commerce, services domestic regulations, investment facilitation, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and women in trade.
“Nigeria is active on all these issues because they are very important for our economy and that is the main thing I want to say today and the reason why we are here. “Nigeria’s share in world trade is 0.33 per cent, this is a small fraction of what we could do. Our share in Africa trade is 19 per cent which is below our share of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product.
“This means we must step up our action on the economy we must do better and harder in several ways, the reason we are concerned about that is because of our youth, the majority of our population are young people who are waiting for jobs and we are here for them.
“Trade can be instrumental if we can add more value to our products, trade can be instrumental if we try to improve on our infrastructure to deliver trade. “Nigeria needs to focus on adding value on transitioning, we are an oil and gas-based economy and that has sustained us and still will. But the world is moving away from fossil fuel.”
The WTO DG said the country can do well in the area of agriculture as it has a lot of potentials in various segments of the agricultural sector. She added, “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.”
Okonjo-Iweala, said that the WTO will work with Nigeria to help deliver support directly with its resources in technical assistance, training and quality upgrade but also with other institutions in unlocking some of the bottlenecks that confront the country.
“The WTO is about supporting investment’s and supporting infrastructure in technical assistance, its 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 Monitory Fund, IMF, these are three powerful institutions that 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 paralyzed 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,” Okojo- Iweala added.
The Trade Minister who congratulated Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment hinted the DG on some of the country’s expectations regarding engagements in the on-going negotiations and discussions.
Adebayo said, “On the on-going agriculture negotiation Nigeria expects balance and equitable outcome that addresses structural causes of food and livelihood insecurity in Net Food Importing Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries.
“On the Fishery Subsidy Negotiations, we look forward to outcomes that result in a reduction in overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices with effective differential treatment that allows a sustainable development of developing countries.”
The Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment, Maryam Katagum urged the DG WTO 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.