Global Trade: Buhari Hosts Okonjo-Iweala, Lists Nigeria’s Requests

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  • WTO DG Offers Investment Support For Nigeria… Reveals Nigeria’s Share Of Global Trade Is 0.33%

From Segun Amure, (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)

President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, hosted Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, newly appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), disclosing to her that despite the robust support Nigeria gave to her candidacy for the position, she also earned it.

“You also earned it. We are happy you made it, but you earned it with your record of performance both at home and abroad,” Buhari said.

In a statement released by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, Buhari said Okonjo-Iweala was putting Nigeria more on the world map, “and I congratulate you, as well as the country. I know you will represent us so well.”

He lauded Nigerian women once again, pointing to key positions they hold like Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, and many others. He the government would encourage the youths, “so that they can be ready for the challenges of the future.”

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Responding, the new WTO chief thanked President Buhari for the pulsating support she received from her home country in the race for the position.

“You nominated me, you wrote hundreds of letters, called up hundreds of world leaders. Without your personal and direct intervention, it may not have worked. The people of Nigeria also supported me massively. The youths were wonderful, always encouraging, backing me up on social media.

“Mr President, the world recognizes what you have done. Since its establishment, only men have led the WTO. Now, a woman has emerged for the first time, and she’s a Nigerian. We are so honoured,” Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said.

She apprised the President of the opportunities for Nigeria in the global organization, as well as the challenges, stressing that “WTO will do more to help Nigeria, but we need to add value to our products in order to trade more. We should exploit all the opportunities in front of us.”

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Okonjo-Iweala added that the support and leadership of President Buhari will help her a lot in her position as DG.

Recall that DG WTO, Okonjo-Iweala assumed office on March 1, 2021 as the first female DG of the World Trade Organization.

Similarly, the federal government has used the opportunity of Ngozi Okojo-Iweala’s meeting with Buhari on Monday to table a list of requests it wants the Director General of WTO to help address.

Minister of finance Mrs. Zainab Ahmed presented the request during the meeting and said Nigeria wants Ngozi Okojo-Iweala to support the nation’s push for the country’s gas to be classified as transition energy.

According to Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria is advocating “for transition energy because it is true now that the issue of climate changes is upon us.”

She argued that “our gas emission in Nigeria is very minimal compared to global emissions. We have these assets and we have not tapped it to aid our development.”

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Furthermore, “we want you to support us and we have it in our agenda in COP 26 to campaign for gas to be classified as transition energy even if it’s for a limited period of 20 years.” She said

Also, the Finance minister said “Nigeria wants the WTO to support us in looking at how we. can leverage bio-economic resources.”

In her words: “it is not new we have been too dependent on fossil fuel and crude contributes significantly to the extent that whichever way the market swings to, that’s the situation we will find ourselves and it is unhealthy.”

In addition, Nigeria is also asking for help from the WTO “to help facilitate trade under the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and enhance the ease of doing business, strengthen manufacturing, and also get women involved and support Nigeria in driving economic inclusive growth by paying special attention to the contributions of women.”

Responding to the requests, the WTO DG Okojo-Iweala said her “visit is to see how WTO can support Nigeria and improve her ability to trade.”

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To support Nigeria’s trade, DG WTO noted that it has become imperative giving that “Nigeria’s share of world trade is 0.33 percent and then in logistics of trade we are 103 out of 167 and generally 19 percent of African trade.”

Following Nigeria’s poor figures regarding trade she said the country has “a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the AfCFTA and be able to expand and one of the objectives is to see how the WTO can help and add value to our primary products especially within Africa.”

“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 the US for quality issues so we couldn’t export”.

However, the DG WTO, she said, has “come up with the International Trade Center and established cooperatives for goods to penetrate more markets and it has ordered 200 metric tonnes of shea butter and later 500metric tonnes both of which have had a positive impact”.

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Her word reads, “joint statement initiative at the WTO to see what rules that can underpin trade for 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 sectors.”

With regards to Nigeria’s advocacy for transition energy, the WTO Director General noted that the world is fast moving to renewable energy.

According to her, “in 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 foil but we must advocate and be willing to migrate”.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that Nigeria has “a diversified economy that can actually benefit us if we invest in it, not just in goods, or agriculture, but also services”.

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She affirmed that Nigeria has “young people doing great in fintech and technology and the 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 the WTO negotiates rules to make everyone access e-commerce,” she said.

Going forward, the WTO she said hopes “to work with international banks to improve world trade. We will work with the World bank, IMF, AFDB and Afreximbank”.

“I have stated that Nigeria is 103 out of 167 in logistics of trade, so if we are thinking of how we can improve trade, we must also think of how we can improve logistics from transport to other logistics. However, e-commerce must come with regulations and Nigeria is the leading light”.

The WTO, she said can assist Nigeria specifically “and we have joined with International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Afrexim bank to facilitate trade. We are also partnering with the IFC for women in finance with a discount.”

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