If there is one thing we must credit this administration for, it is the unwavering commitment to diversify the Nigerian economy. At a time global commodity prices hit an all-time low, the decision to explore opportunities in trade became a necessary desideratum. Nigeria entered into several trade agreements in the past but failed to bring them to logical conclusions to enable the nation derive maximum benefits that should accrue from them.
Nigeria needed to exploit the bountiful opportunity available in this sector. Today, the stage is now set for a robust engagement with regional and global trading partners. The outcome has been quite positive as Nigeria has once more regained her position as a leading voice not only in Africa, but the world at large.
Positive developments in trade continue to resonate with critical stakeholders in Nigeria’s economy. The conversation on trade and investment dominate the public space now. Additionally, it has emerged a major influence and advocate of trade facilitation as a viable policy framework to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.
Being the largest economy in Africa, the nation’s strategic leadership in trade and investment will immensely benefit the continent. Africa’s over two billion strong and diversified market size can be converted into huge resources for trade and investment in growing its economies, creating jobs, improving service delivery domestically and regionally as well as fostering shared prosperity for its teeming population.
For the Nigerian government, trade facilitation agenda occupies a prominent place on its priority list. Its mainstreaming of trade in the macro-economic agenda towards growing the economy is apt. Also, is the promotion of intra-Africa trade as the center piece of Nigeria’s trade policy. Establishing the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN) strengthens trade facilitation efforts. Through NOTN, the trade sector is scaling up engagements and initiatives with partners, which will in turn positively affect the country’s rating and effectiveness regionally and globally.
In furtherance of the commitment on trade and development, on November 2 to 3 2017, the Nigerian government and the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) co-hosted the High-Level Policy and Private Sector Forum on Trade and Investment Facilitation for Development in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital in partnership with World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s Friends of Investment Facilitation for Development (FIFD). Delegates from 30 African countries cutting across ministers, business leaders and policy makers attended the two-day conference, which arrived at far reaching resolutions on trade and investment.
Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo declared the forum open, with WTO’s Director General, Roberto Azevêdo, United Nation’s Commission on Trade and Development’s Secretary-General Mikhusa Kituyi, President of World Economic Forum, Børge Brende, the ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel Alain De Souza, and Commissioner for Trade and Industry of African Union Commission, Albert M. Muchanga.
The forum’s deliberations focused on why scaling up investment is key for expanding trade and development across the continent; how African countries can deploy trade domestically and regionally to facilitate investment; and how cooperative global approaches in the WTO could reinforce, advance, and build upon efforts of African countries.
The Forum recognised huge opportunities that abound with increased intra Africa trade facilitation given the dramatic increase in Africa’s population, increasing pressure for jobs, expanding prosperity, as well as the need to accelerate industrialisation across the continent. It also acknowledged the need to leap frog technological development and leverage Africa’s demographic dividend for sustained and inclusive growth for Africa to emerge as the next growth frontier with a global impact and potential.
At the end of the forum, The Abuja Statement: “Deepening Africa’s Integration in the Global Economy through Trade and Investment Facilitation for Development” was adopted. The document prepared Africa’s framework for effective engagement at the WTO’s MC11, where important issues on global trade were to be deliberated by member-states.
The Abuja High Level forum was a prelude to the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) scheduled for Buenos Aires, Argentina from 10 to 13 December 2017. The MC11 was aimed at strengthening WTO as a global public good that remains central to the welfare, prosperity, and development of member-states. It was also an opportunity for the African Union (AU) member-states to consolidate actions on strengthening the global trading system, deepening ongoing negotiations on establishing the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement – a single market for trade in goods and services across Africa
Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah attended the ministerial conference as vice chair representing Africa. This clearly, reinforced the country’s leadership role in trade policy matters in Africa. As the representative of the African region, he used the platform to reiterate critical positions as enunciated in the Abuja Statement
The minister’s remarks entitled: “Modernisation, Job Creation, Enhancing Welfare, and Widening Prosperity Circle”, therefore, reinforced expectations of Nigeria and indeed Africa from the WTO on reaping the benefits of trade and investment through the WTO framework of rules-based trade. The minister conveyed Nigeria’s decision to support the consensus building efforts of WTO investment facilitation (IF) as contained in the Abuja Statement agreed to by member-states. Dr. Enelamah asserted that “The major position in the statement was the affirmation that trade and investment are inseparable, they are twin engines for economic growth, modernisation and development.”
“As chairperson of CFTA process, Nigeria is working hard with other AU members to launch CFTA in 2018. This is a paramount priority for the African Union and Nigeria. Nigeria appeals to WTO members to support the efforts of the AU in this regards”, he continued. The minister disclosed that Nigeria’s commitment to reform its domestic economic policy to align with its trade facilitation objective which supports the WTO agenda for trade remains unwavering.
It is important to note Nigeria’s continual inputs in framing several declarations and decisions at major global trade forums as co-sponsors. These include the Joint Ministerial Statement on Investment Facilitation; the Ministerial Decision on Investment Facilitation; the E-Commerce and Digital Economy (One of the fastest growing areas of the Nigerian economy); the Friends of Electronic Commerce for Development (FEDs), with Nigeria as an original member of the 13 member state coalition.
Member states include Argentina; Brazil; Chile; China; Colombia; Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Qatar.
Others are the declaration on e-commerce with Singapore along with Nigeria as a co-sponsor; the decision on e-commerce with Japan, Nigeria is also a co-sponsor. The “Friends of the System” (FOS), a WTO Middle Grounders coordinated by Switzerland to which Nigeria is a longstanding member. The FOS group rows the mid-course and underscores the value of the WTO, as a global public good.
–Abdulahi wrote in from Lagos
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