The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that Nigeria’s 0.33 per cent share in world trade is “a very small fraction” of the volume of global trade the country can do.
Speaking during a meeting with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment in Abuja on Monday, Okonjo-Iweala said Nigeria’s share in Africa trade is 15 per cent.
“What this means is that we can either look at it negatively and say it is a small portion of what world trade is, or we can turn it around and say it is a glass half full, optimistic side, and say that there is potential for us to do much more. That’s the message I want to convey to the country and Mr President,” she said.
The WTO boss, who is visiting Nigeria for the first time since assumption of office as Director-General of the global trade regulatory body, said Nigeria must strive to do better in several ways, including the creation of jobs for its youth.
“Trade can be instrumental if we can add more value to our products and try to improve our infrastructure to deliver trade. What I am going to say without going into details is the fact that Nigeria really needs to focus on adding value and repositioning,” she said.
She said Nigeria is an oil and gas-based economy, which has sustained the country for some time, and still, maybe for a couple of decades more, but the world is moving away from fossil fuel.
Okonjo-Iweala said the world is transiting to electric cars and not only because of trade, but it’s existential for Nigeria to begin to think of the future.
“We have good news because in agriculture we have a lot we can do.
“There is an example I am going to be quoting everywhere of how we just help a cooperative of mainly women to process shea butter.
“WTO provided the technical assistance to connect them to markets and to help them improve the quality of their products.
“What happened was that they were able to produce 200 metric tons of shea butter, with an order for another 500 metric tons,” she illustrated.
She said Nigeria is 103 out of 167 counties in logistics and that’s a potential area in which Nigeria can invest to take advantage of trade within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as 19% of Africa’s trade is from Nigeria.
“What does that say? We can do so much more. So, I am here to say, we have difficulties and challenges with our economy, we have to move fast.
“But we have the potential to do so much better. And trade is a very strong part of that story, and the WTO can work with Nigeria to help deliver support directly with their own resources in technical assistance, training and quality of products,” she said.
The Trade Minister, Niyi Adebayo, told the visiting WTO boss of Nigeria’s expectation in ongoing negotiations as they prepare for the forthcoming 12th Ministerial conference of the WTO in Geneva scheduled for December this year.
On agricultural negotiations, he said Nigeria expects balanced and equitable outcomes that address structural causes of food and livelihood insecurity in net food-importing developing countries and least developed countries.
Under the joint statement initiative, the Minister said “Nigeria looks forward to outcomes that would take into account the country’s developmental priorities to support Nigeria’s efforts towards diversification, modernization of our economy and sustained growth.”
While acknowledging the WTO’s capacity-building efforts around the training of trading officers and on trading governance, he said there was a need for more targeted technical assistance from the WTO.
The Minister said the Trade Ministry would be writing to the WTO to highlight specific details of areas the country would require assistance.