By Merit Ibe

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The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has posited that for Nigeria to take advantage of opportunities offered by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the leadership of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, it was important to build capacity for international competitiveness of our products and services.
The Chamber also emphasised the need to address trade facilitation issues, especially around port processes, ports infrastructures, international trade documentation, foreign exchange policies, trade policies and industrial policies.
The Director General of the chamber, Muda Yusuf, made the disclosure following the appointment of Okonjo-Iweala as the DG of the WTO, saying her emergence comes at a time when the global trading system is faced with numerous challenges including supply chain disruptions precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, rising protectionism and unilateralism, growing economic nationalism, imposition of trade restrictions covering substantial amount of international trade, as well as trust and credibility concerns among members.
Felicitating with Nigeria on the appointment, Yusuf said Africa has peculiar challenges in the global trade arena and that the continent was deeply integrated into the global supply chain and this underscores the low participation level of African economies in international trade.
“According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa’s trade with the global community between 2015 and 2017 stood at an average of $760.1 billion, compared with Asia ($6.8 trn), America ($5.1 trn) and Europe ($4.1trn).”
These numbers, he said indicate that Africa is not a major player in global trade. As such, it was pertinent for African economies to build capacity within the continent in order to take advantage of the opportunities in global trade.
He said Nigeria’s share in global trade is even more insignificant. “Our export structure is still largely dependent on crude oil, which accounts for about 50% of government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange earnings. More importantly, Nigeria’s non-oil exports are largely primary commodities with little or zero value addition. Thus, the prospects of tapping international trade opportunities remains dim.”
The DG reiterated the need to promote local value addition and backward integration to strengthen competitiveness of our domestic industries, undertake reforms of our tariff policy in accordance with the principles of comparative advantage, which would enable the country optimise opportunities in the global trade arena and enhance the citizens’ welfare.
“ It is critical to develop an the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) strategy that would enable the country leverage trade opportunities both continentally and globally.
“There is need to improve on our strategy in managing the coronavirus pandemic ranging from ensuring compliance to safety protocols to vaccine procurement and distribution.”
Congratulating Okonjo-Iweala, President of the chamber, Toki Mabogunje said the appointment was well-deserved having regard to her pedigree, impeccable credentials, intellectual depth, and robust experience.
She noted that as finance minister, the new WTO DG demonstrated an extraordinary courage and commitment to reforms in the promotion of transparency and accountability, in the management of public finance amid overwhelming odds. “She will no doubt bring these sterling qualities to bear on this position.”
Mabogunje said her appointment at a time Africa is taking an unprecedented step in deepening continental economic integration through the ratification of AfCFTA presents an opportunity of mainstreaming the African continent into global trade.
“AfCFTA is still in its nascent stage and needs a lot of support which the WTO is in a position to provide.”
“The WTO is one of the oldest multilateral global institutions with a strategic objective of promoting free and fair trade globally.
“These are not the best of times for many multilateral institutions given the groundswell of economic nationalism and unilateralism in recent years. This is even more so in trade matters.
“But we are confident that Dr Okonjo Iweala has the capacity to manage the enormous responsibilities of an increasingly complex global trade situation.”