Uzoka-Anite: Nigeria to Influence Policy Outcomes as WTO MC13 Begins Today in UAE

Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite

Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite

*Seeks equitable rules to enhance food security, others

James Emejo in Abuja

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, yesterday, said the country was prepared to actively contribute to global dialogue and negotiations as the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) kicks off today in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Uzoka-Anite said Nigeria looked forward to playing a key role in shaping positive outcomes for the conference scheduled for February 26-29.

Essentially, MC is an international meeting of the organisation’s 164 member governments, directed to make decisions on the multilateral rules underpinning the international trading system. It is the highest-level decision-making body of the WTO, obliged to meet every two years under the Marrakesh Agreement.
The agenda of the conference includes discussions focused on both the environment and inclusivity in trade policy.

Uzoka-Anite said the fact that these issues were on the agenda was a positive step in how the multilateral trading system defined its role in the world.
“Nigeria is dedicated to contributing constructively to discussions that will impact the future of global trade,” she said.
The minister stated that this year’s conference presented a crucial opportunity for Nigeria to participate in negotiations for, among other issues, Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) that developing country members could receive in trade agreements.

She stressed that while Nigeria continued to grapple with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and sought collective solutions for sustainable development, digital trade and food security remained top priorities.

Uzoka-Anite stated, “Our participation at the MC13 paves the way for us to achieve concrete positive outcomes in the WTO agriculture trade reforms negotiations, which we believe should be approached from a food security and livelihood perspective.

“We call for the continued review of the trading rules for agriculture to achieve equitable rules that enhance food security, by providing the necessary policy space for augmenting production and productivity and protecting livelihoods in developing countries, along with diversifying and stabilising the global supply of food products by achieving reductions in inequitable trade-distorting subsidies.

“In this regard, the MC 13 work programme must pave the way for the adoption of decisions on critical food security instruments of public stockholding for Food Security Purposes (PSH), and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) for Developing Countries.

“In addition, it must foster negotiations on modalities to address trade-distorting domestic support, especially with regard to levelling of the playing field.”
The minister said Nigeria prevailed on member countries of WTO to prioritise reforms that would address simultaneously the longstanding development issues on the negotiating agenda of the organisation, together with issues of commercial significance that fostered inclusive growth, created jobs, and widened the circle of prosperity.

She stated that in preparation for MC13, Nigeria had conducted extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including other WTO state members, government agencies, private sector representatives, and civil society organisations.
According to her, these collaborative efforts aim to ensure that Nigeria’s positions are reflective of diverse perspectives and contribute to the collective goals of WTO.

Uzoka-Anite also said Nigeria would sustain its advocacy for e-commerce work programme and moratorium to be approached from a development perspective. This, she said, would enable the country to explore the appropriate policy instruments within the WTO toolbox that could be deployed to foster the development of e-commerce ecosystems in developing countries.

The trade minister said, “We believe that issues regarding the scope and the definition of the moratorium should be taken up post MC13 and clarified so members can understand the scope of their commitment.
“Furthermore, with respect to the moratorium on Imposing Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions, Nigeria is of the view that it should be extended temporarily.

“Nigeria holds this view for two important reasons. First, the non-renewal of the moratorium would undermine the predictability of the global e-commerce environment, and this would negatively affect businesses and consumers.

“Next, it will undermine the competitiveness and growth of our MSMEs, who would be unable to access intermediate content at cheaper prices.”
The minister added, “Moreover, another priority for Nigeria at MC13 is finding an amicable solution to matters relating to Fisheries Subsidies. We welcome the increasing number of ratifications of the MC12 Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (FSA) and encourage members who are yet to conclude this process to expedite action.

“We also welcome the WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism and call for it to be made easily accessible for developing countries to invest in their fisheries management systems.”
She said the country remained optimistic that MC13 would deliver an SDG14.6 consistent agreement on the outstanding issues, including overcapacity and overfishing (OCOF) that focuses on the most harmful subsidies with effective special and differential treatment for developing countries that are not responsible for OCOF, and exemption for small players whose share of global marine capture is below 0.8 per cent.

In addition, she said artisanal and small-scale fishing should be excluded from the scope of application of the discipline.
According to her, Nigeria seeks a result-oriented MC13 where ongoing reforms within the multilateral trading system would be adapted to avail developing countries the policy space to support sustainable industrialisation, economic diversification, and structural transformations, including through enhancing domestic production and value addition.

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