Africa Must Produce to Benefit from WTO, Say Soludo, Rewane

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Charles Soludo

By Emmanuel Addeh

A former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Charles Soludo, Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr Birsmack Rewane, and former Nigerian ambassador to the United States, Mr. Joe Keshi, yesterday opined that Africa must boost its production level to gain from the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The three prominent Nigerians spoke yesterday during separate interviews on “The Morning Show,” a programme on ARISE NEWS Channels, a THISDAY newspaper’s sister media organisation.

They argued that the WTO as a global body will deal with every country and continent according to what they bring to the table during trade negotiations, noting that if Nigeria would benefit from Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s headship of the organisation, it must align with the principles of the WTO.

Rewane, a renowned economist, held that Nigeria’s share of global trade still remains very insignificant, explaining that Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence should be a wake-up call for Nigeria to do away with its restrictive policies like shutting of borders.

He said: “Let’s face it, Nigeria’s share of world trade is about .6 per cent of total global trade and Nigeria’s share of output is about .23 per cent while Africa’s share of world trade is about two per cent and Africa’s share of global GDP is about the same thing.

“This is a wake-up call for Africa and for Nigeria in particular to pull its weight by doing the right things. One thing that is noteworthy is that the WTO is a free trade leaning institution which believes in multilateralism and globalisation.”

Rewane maintained that to that extent, the WTO is anti-subsidy, anti-restrictions and anti-prohibition, insisting that Nigeria on the one hand cannot be pushing forward the principles of restrictions and trade prohibitions and on the other hand be a champion of world trade and globalisation.

He argued that as a country, charity must begin at home, saying that the country needs to reform its policies and be more market-oriented because the time for restrictive practices, subsidies, and market manipulation are over.

He stressed that it was noteworthy that there are currently five institutions that Nigerian professionals are running, either directly or indirectly, including the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), African Development Bank (AfDB), Afreximbank and the WTO, noting that even the deputy secretary general of the United Nations is also a Nigerian.

In his remarks, Soludo said that Nigerians must begin to understand the nature of the WTO, so as to tone down their huge expectations from the newly confirmed WTO Director-General, Okonjo-Iweala.

He opined that for Africa, there is the feel good factor, especially in today’s world where everyone is talking about women representation, but added that the DG did not get the job because she’s African or a woman.

“She got the job because she was the best qualified among those who showed up for the job. Is she going there to carry out an African agenda, I am not sure that is her remit if you understand the way the WTO works,” Soludo said.

The former CBN boss posited that Okonjo-Iweala cannot unilaterally take decisions, saying that there are power blocks within the WTO which must come together to take collective decisions.

He stated that there are mechanisms for decision making, but expressed confidence that ultimately the former minister of finance will be able to navigate through the landmines among the global powers.

Soludo said that the new DG came prepared, saying that her first business now is to bring the major power block to the table, especially America and China, with a view to de-escalating tensions.

Keshi, a former ambassador and technocrat also argued in the same vein, asking Nigeria to rise up to the occasion by boosting production levels.

“The only way we can help her to help us is to put something in the market. If we are not getting a fair price for our products, the WTO can intervene to help the African region to get a fair trade. If we are not doing that, there’s very little she can do,” he stated.