FG to Review 18-year-old Trade Policy

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By James Emejo

The acting Chief Trade Negotiator/Director-General, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), Mr. Victor Liman, yesterday said efforts are ongoing to update the country’s trade policy document to reflect modern economic realities.

He said the existing trade policy, which was last reviewed in 2002, can no longer be relevant in the 21st century.

Speaking at the official launch of a policy document titled: ‘A Nigerian Policy Roadmap: Perspectives and Insights’, which was produced by the NOTN, he said already, a stakeholders’ consultation had commenced towards gathering inputs for the review of the trade policy blueprint.

Critics have severally berated the country for lack of a definite trade policy, a situation which had been blamed for dumping and other unwholesome trade practices in Nigeria.

However, Liman said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had led to massive trade deficits and losses for key sectors of the economy, particularly oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, aviation, construction, real estate among others, with short, medium and long term implications going forward.

Commenting on the roadmap for economic recovery and sustainability, he said there is an urgent need for a strategic policy on COVID-19 and trade related interventions by the government and other stakeholders as the “new normal is now upon us.”

Liman said as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the tools and mechanics that support free trade are either stalemated, destroyed or in an indeterminate state of abeyance, noting that these conditions may linger for a longer time to come.

Specifically, the NOTN boss added that the baseline thresholds of macroeconomic stability, financial management, and broad national reforms to open markets, eased land borders and air space movement among others are currently under threat as a result of the pandemic.

Therefore, he said: “A broad multi-sectoral and coordinated response is required by Nigeria internally and regionally to sustain the economy, recover the losses and grow the economy towards sustainability.”

Liman said the trade policy framework seeks to make Nigeria one of the 15th largest economies in the world by 2025 as well as provide a framework for increasing the share of trade in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 50 per cent and boost the workforce in trade related industries to 28 per cent by 2023.

He said: “In the 21st century, the linkage between trade and industrial policy is important. Recognising the linkage, this trade policy roadmap is also set within the context of Nigeria’s Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), designed to fast-track domestic and foreign investments flows and development of industrial capacity within Nigeria.”