…Solicits WTO Support on Energy Transition, Ease of Doing Business
Nigeria as a member state has cleared the arrears for her 2019 – 21 dues payment to World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has advanced some payments for 2022, this was disclosed by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General (DG) of the world trade body.
“I want to say a very big thank you to the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, for what she did. She cleared the arrears of our payment to the WTO, which really made us proud. I want to thank Mr. President, and the Chief of Staff for focusing on that payment issue.
“I want to share with you the fact that the Honourable Minister has paid for 2019 – 2021 and has also advanced some payments for 2022. So, we as a country are ahead in our payment; this is very encouraging,” Okonjo-Iweala said in Abuja during her first official visit to Nigeria recently.
The Nigerian government is soliciting the support of World Trade Organisation (WTO) in its transition from fossil oil to a gas dependent economy.
The government at the visit requested the world trade body to assist in facilitating the country’s trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, and also to consider the ease of doing business policy of the government.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, made the requests when Okonjo-Iweala, who is on a four-day official visit to Nigeria.
Mrs. Ahmed said, “We in Nigeria want to advocate for transition energy because it is true now that the issue with climate change is upon us. Our gas emissions in Nigeria is very minimal compared to global emissions. We have these assets and we have not tapped it to help our development.
“We want you to support us, and we have it in our agenda in COP 26 (the next annual UN climate change conference) to campaign for gas to be classified as transition energy, even if it is for a limited period of 20 years. We also want the WTO to support us in looking at how Nigeria can leverage bio-economic resources.
“It is not news that we have been too dependent on fossils fuel, and crude contributes significantly to the extent that whichever way the market swings to, that is the situation we will find ourselves, and it is unhealthy. Also, we are asking you to help us facilitate trade under the AfCFTA and enhance the ease of doing business.
“We need to strengthen manufacturing, and also get women involved and support Nigeria in driving economic inclusive growth by paying special attention to the contributions of women”.
Ahmed commended the DG of WTO for commencing her worldwide country tour from Nigeria, stressing that it was a pointer to her preparedness to reciprocate the country’s immense support which led to her emergence for the top global job.
Responding, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said the visit was to enable her see how WTO can support Nigeria and improve its ability to trade. She noted that Nigeria’s share of world trade is 0.33 percent.
The DG, however, said, “But I am looking at an advantage side; that we have a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the AfCFTA and be able to expand. One of the objectives is to see how the WTO can help and add value to our primary products, especially within Africa.
“We have a few examples of how we can do that. Nigeria is one of the biggest producers of Sesame seeds and Shea butter in the world, but we have been barred from the market of Europe and United States (US) for quality issues. So, we could not export.
“But the WTO have now come up with the International Trade Center and has established corporative for goods to penetrate more market, and it has ordered 200mtc tones of shea butter and later 500mtc and it has impacted.
“Also, we have the joint statement initiative at the WTO to see what rules can underpin trade for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and women in trade, because we believe reaching them will make a difference in regional and global value chain, since most of the population is in informal sector. There is a very fast move in renewable energy”.
According to her, “On the area of transition to renewable energy, the world is moving in the direction of renewables; we have to advocate and migrate to other types of activities. Nigeria must think fast on how to join the movement, and I support the minister in transiting from fossil oil, but we must advocate and be willing to migrate.
“We have a diversified economy that can actually benefit us, if we invest in it, not just in goods, or agriculture, but also services. We have young people doing great in fintech and technology, and WTO is developing rules to underpin e-commerce in a fair and balanced way, and also train people to access e-commerce.
“E-commerce is crucial, especially with the pandemic, and WTO negotiates rules to make everyone access e-commerce. We hope to work with these international banks to improve world trade. We will work with World bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), African Development Bank (AfDB), and African Import-Export Bank (Afreximbank).”
Okonjo-Iweala stated that out of 167 in logistics of trade, Nigeria has 103, and generally 19 percent of African trade. She added: “So, if we are thinking of how we can improve trade, we must also think of how we can improve logistics. From transport to logistics, e-commerce must come with regulations and Nigeria is the leading light.”
“A couple of other areas is that we have the ongoing fisheries negotiations and we aspire to finish the multilateral round of negotiations, and it is time to end it, 20 years after. 20 years is enough because we are talking of the livelihood of men and women in the world”, she added.
On the Covid-19 pandemic, Okonjo-Iweala said: “We are active, and proud that Covax facility supplied vaccine to Nigeria, and we need to approach World Health Organisation (WHO) for medical products and supplies. Trade restrictions are everywhere, and we hope we will have zero tariffs on medical products except some in facilitation areas”.
She then also disclosed that all the decisions would be ratified at the WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in December, 2021. “The WTO can help assist specifically, and we have joined with International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Afexim Bank to facilitate trade. We are also partnering IFC for Women in Finance program with a discount.”