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With Dr. Okonjo-Iweala in charge, LCCI tabulates six issues Nigeria must fix to fully take advantage of opportunities offered by the WTO

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, USA speaking in the Gavi at 20: Lessons Learned from the World's Leading Vaccine Alliance session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 22 January. Congress Centre - Congress Hall. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Valeriano Di Domenicorr. She is a front runner for the WTO job.

By Audrey Lotchukwu

TUE 16 FEB, 2021-theGBJournal- The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has highlighted six issues Nigeria must fix to fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by the World Trade Organization under the leadership of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The Chamber enumerated the issues in a note to theGBJournal Monday after it underscored the country’s ‘’insignificant’’ share in global trade as well as Africa’s challenges in global trade arena.

According to the LCCI, Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s 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.

Africa has peculiar challenges in the global trade arena. The continent is 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 indicate that Africa is not a major player in global trade. As such, it is very pertinent for African economies to build capacity within the continent in order to take advantage of the opportunities in global trade.

Nigeria’s share in global trade is even more insignificant. The country’s 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.’’

But for Nigeria to fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by the World Trade Organization under the leadership of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the Chamber said it is imperative to ensure the following:

 -We need to build capacity for international competitiveness of our products and services.

-Also imperative is the need to address trade facilitation issues, especially around port processes, ports infrastructures, international trade documentation, foreign exchange policies, trade policies and industrial policies.

-We need to promote local value addition and backward integration to strengthen competitiveness of our domestic industries.

-We must 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 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.

‘’Ultimately, these are the factors that would determine the benefits that would accrue to the economy from global trade,’’ LCCI said.

It added; ‘’While the emergence of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as the new WTO Director-General is very gratifying and calls for celebration, there is a need to manage expectations around the outcomes for the Nigerian economy given the numerous productivity and competitiveness issues the country is grappling with.’’

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