‘How manufacturing, trade can help Nigeria to further rebalance economy’

A paper conversion production floor of a Lagos-based plant
A paper conversion production floor of a Lagos-based plant

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has urged the Federal Government to improve the conditions for trade and investment in its policy mix, as well as strengthen bilateral ties if manufacturing and trade will help the nation in rebalancing the economy.

According to the WTO, while diversifying the economy to reduce dependence on the oil sector is a clear priority, improving the conditions for trade and investment will be an essential part of the policy mix.

Specifically, the WTO urged government to reduce barriers to trade and lower the costs of doing business across borders in order to attract investment, and provide access to new markets for Nigeria’s budding business community.

Indeed, the WTO noted that many businesses in Nigeria are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that need to be supported to trade by lowering the costs and the barriers which make it too difficult for them to start exporting.

Director-General, WTO, Roberto Azevêdo during his meeting with private sector representatives in the country, stated the need to explore how trade — and the WTO — can help in overcoming some of the challenges and seizing some of the emerging opportunities.

“Nigeria has well-developed financial, legal, and communications sectors and the second largest stock market in Africa. The manufacturing and services sectors have grown significantly in recent years, helping to rebalance the economy. Innovative start-ups are emerging rapidly — covering everything from fashion to software development.

“On agriculture, members took a decision on export competition which is particularly important. It is the most significant reform in international trade rules on agriculture since the creation of the WTO. Perhaps the most important point is that it will eliminate agricultural export subsidies which can distort trade and harm developing country farmers.

“Nigerian farmers should not have to compete with the treasuries of developed countries. So ending these subsidies is very significant — it will help to level the playing field in agriculture markets to the benefit of farmers and exporters in Nigeria.

“Eliminating these subsidies was actually one element of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals — so it is a big achievement that we delivered this, just three months after the goals were agreed. The decision will also help to limit similar distorting effects associated with export credits and state trading enterprises”.

Explaining the need to address barriers to trade, Azevêdo said: “In Nigeria today the average time it takes to export goods is around 20 days, while imports take around 30 days. This pushes costs up so that many businesses can’t afford to buy and sell goods internationally. So these reforms could make a big difference here.

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