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WTO frets over Nigeria’s multiple exchange rate

 

 

Lawrence Olaoye and Abdulwahab Isa Abuja

 

 

Newly appointed Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, has disclosed that the world trade body is not comfortable with the multiple exchange rates regime in Nigeria.

Okonjo-Iweala, who visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja for the first time since emerging the head at WTO, told State House correspondents that the multiple exchange rates would affect Nigeria’s participation in the global trade arena.

According to her, some member states have equally complained about Nigeria’s invoking the balance of payment agreement to be able to conserve foreign exchange.

Okonjo-Iweala said: “WTO has one of the agreements of balance of payments, and Nigeria certainly invoked this to be able to conserve foreign exchange. But some other members have brought a complaint against us (Nigeria) that we shouldn’t have used this article in that way.

 

“So yes, the WTO is concerned about foreign exchange, the way we manage it; the way we use it and how we use it to support manufacturing or imports and exports in our economy.

 

“And I think that we had that discussion with them, they complained about the exchange rate regime and we (Nigeria) try to explain. I shouldn’t say we, because I’m now DG WTO, it is for Nigeria’s representative to explain to the WTO, to those members complaining why we’re doing this.

 

“But eventually, I think having a strong exchange rate and being able to phase out of this, I think we’ll be heading in that direction. We’re also going to see the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and will undoubtedly discuss some of these issues.”

 

Receiving the Director General earlier at the Presidential Villa, President Buhari expressed optimism that Okonjo-Iweala would represent Nigeria well at the world stage. The meeting with the president was the first since Okonjo-Iweala emerged the WTO DG this month.

 

According to a statement made available to newsmen by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, Buhari told Okonjo-Iweala that despite the robust support Nigeria gave to her candidacy for the position, “you also earned it.

 

We are happy you made it, but you earned it with your record of performance both at home and abroad.” The president 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.” Buhari 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 said government would encourage the youths the same way, “so that they can be ready for the challenges of the future.”

The new WTO DG thanked the President for the pulsating support she received from her own 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 recognises 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,” 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.”

She added that the support and leadership of the President will help her a lot in her position as DG. She also allayed fears that embracing the free trade policy of the world body would harm Nigeria’s economic diversification drive.

 

Okonjo-Iweala affirmed that special and differential treatment could be applied to prevent vulnerable countries from collapsing under completion.

 

However, she added that the special treatment would not be forever as such countries would have to eventually open up for competition. She also said duties could be applied on imports to prevent the country from being a dumping ground.

 

Okonjo-Iweala admitted that despite lifting millions out of poverty, free trade has not been beneficial to all especially women, saying that in recognition of this, the WTO has a deliberate policy to support women.

She said she had discussions in many areas with Buhari on what the WTO could do not improve the Nigerian economy.

According to her, there is a unique opportunity for the country to improve its standing in trade and add value to its products especially agriculture. While noting that Nigeria’s Shear butter was denied access to the United States and European markets because of poor quality, she said the country could “trade more, export more and add value to its products.”

The DG noted that Nigeria must out-market others, stressing that there is a high demand for the country’s fashion in other African countries but Nigeria has not been able to leverage on it.

On COVID-19, Okonjo- Iweala advised Nigeria to set up local vaccine manufacturing as she noted that coronavirus would not be the last pandemic. She also warned that Nigeria would be running into an economic crisis in the nearest future if the country does not start diversifying from its reliance on fossil fuels now.

 

She said the need for Nigeria to begin its gradual move away from reliance on oil was one of the issues she discussed with President Buhari.

 

According to her, now should be Nigeria’s transition period from fossil fuels to renewable energies, noting that most countries of the world are already giving timelines banning use of equipment, including cars, using fossil fuels.

 

She expressed the concern when reacting to the feat achieved by the Dangote Refinery, which she said is a commendable achievement, noting however that the days of its relevance would be affected by the fact that the world is moving away from oil and gas. Meanwhile, the Federal Government also solicited the support of the global trade body in the country’s transition from fossil oil to a gas dependent economy.

 

In addition, it requested to be assisted in facilitating trade under African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to enhance ease of doing business, amongst other requests. Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, tabled the requests before Okonjo-Iweala.

 

The minister said: “We in Nigeria want to advocate for  transition energy because it is true now that the issue of climate change is upon us. Our gas emission in Nigeria is very minimal compared to global emission. We have these assets and we have not tapped into it, to aid our development.”

“There is a very fast move in renewable energy. 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.

 

“We have a diversified economy that can actually benefit us if we invest in it, not just in goods, or agriculture, but also services.

We have young people doing great in fin-tech 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. We hope to work with these international banks to improve world trade. We will work with World bank, IMF, AFDB and Afreximbank,” Okonjo-Iweala pledged.

 

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,”

 

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.”

She added that the support and leadership of the President will help her a lot in her position as DG. She also allayed fears that embracing the free trade policy of the world body would harm Nigeria’s economic diversification drive.

 

Okonjo-Iweala affirmed that special and differential treatment could be applied to prevent vulnerable countries from collapsing under completion. However, she added that the special treatment would not be forever as such countries would have to eventually open up for competition. She also said duties could be applied on imports to prevent the country from being a dumping ground.

 

Okonjo-Iweala admitted that despite lifting millions out of poverty, free trade has not been beneficial to all especially women, saying that in recognition of this, the WTO has a deliberate policy to support women.

 

She said she had discussions in many areas with Buhari on what the WTO could do not improve the Nigerian economy.

According to her, there is a unique opportunity for the country to improve its standing in trade and add value to its products especially agriculture.

While noting that Nigeria’s Shear butter was denied access to the United States and European markets because of poor quality, she said the country could “trade more, export more and add value to its products.”

 

The DG noted that Nigeria must out-market others, stressing that there is a high demand for the country’s fashion in other African countries but Nigeria has not been able to leverage on it. On COVID-19, Okonjo- Iweala advised Nigeria to set up local vaccine manufacturing as she noted that coronavirus would not be the last pandemic.

She also warned that Nigeria would be running into an economic crisis in the nearest future if the country does not start diversifying from its reliance on fossil fuels now. She said the need for Nigeria to begin its gradual move away from reliance on oil was one of the issues she discussed with President Buhari.

 

According to her, now should be Nigeria’s transition period from fossil fuels to renewable energies, noting that most countries of the world are already giving timelines banning use of equipment, including cars, using fossil fuels.

 

She expressed the concern when reacting to the feat achieved by the Dangote Refinery, which she said is a commendable achievement, noting however that the days of its relevance would be affected by the fact that the world is moving away from oil and gas.

 

Meanwhile, the Federal Government also solicited the support of the global trade body in the country’s transition from fossil oil to a gas dependent economy. In addition, it requested to be assisted in facilitating trade under African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to enhance ease of doing business, amongst other requests. Minister of Finance,

 

Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, tabled the requests before Okonjo-Iweala. The minister said: “We in Nigeria want to advocate for    transition energy because it is true now that the issue of climate change is upon us.

 

Our gas emission in Nigeria is very minimal compared to global emission. We have these assets and we have not tapped into it, to aid our development.”

 

“There is a very fast move in renewable energy. 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.

 

“We have a diversified economy that can actually benefit us if we invest in it, not just in goods, or agriculture, but also services.

 

We have young people doing great in fin-tech 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.

 

We hope to work with these international banks to improve world trade. We will work with World bank, IMF, AFDB and Afreximbank,” Okonjo-Iweala pledged.

 

 

 

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