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 Nigerian Lawmakers Seek Enhanced Trade Opportunities With WTO In Digital, Marine Sectors

Senator Natasha Akpoti-Udoaghan believes Nigeria can boost its non-oil exports to earn forex for the economy.

Nigeria’s delegation to the on-going 148th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), led by the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, has sought the collaboration of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the area of digital and marine economies.

Akpabio, stated this while addressing journalists at the WTO headquarters, shortly after a courtesy visit to the Director General of the global body, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her office in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday.

A statement on Tuesday, by the Akpabio Media Office, explained that the delegation was at the WTO on a courtesy call and to look for areas of collaboration with the organisation in the various sectors of the economy for the overall benefit of Nigerians.

Akpabio said, “We used our attendance at the IPU to pay courtesy visit to one of Nigeria’s very costly export to the world, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala who is the Director General of the WTO.

“We came to thank her for the job she is doing for the world and thank her staff for supporting and standing by her to succeed. We, in Nigeria are very proud of her.

“We had discussions on the various developmental programmes of the WTO and we noticed that there were spaces where Nigerians can become major players.

“We discussed issues affecting trade back home in Nigeria and ways in which the National Assembly can assist in removing barriers, through legislation for the benefit of our people.

“We also talked about issue of regulations concerning digital economic contents, illegal fishing along the coastal states of Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states.

“We spoke on how the Nigerian women could benefit from the recent programmes funded by the organisation was also discussed.

“The establishment of a digital trade portal, where-in, all trade information could be accessed by our people top our discussion with the WTO.

“The deliberations were fruitful and we are confident that with our support in all of these, Nigerians would be the better for it.”

In his brief remarks, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, said, ” our best export to the world, took her time to bring us up to speak on the various innovations and initiatives of the WTO and what Africa and Nigeria stand to benefit from.”

“We are going back more refreshed because we have seen a space here for Africa to thrive in business and in trade,” Kalu added.

Speaking in the same vein, the WTO chief, described the visit of the Senate president and the deputy speaker, to her office as “a huge honour.”

She said, “We were able to  talk on those things we are doing at the WTO that would help make a material difference for Nigerians.

“We spoke of recent programme that we launched in some development programmes, from the standards and trade facilities to help in improving sanitary and vital sanitary standards for some of the crops in Nigeria, so that it helps in diversifying the economy to even fisheries and illegal mining of the waters of Nigeria.

“A lot of things on the table have already been discussed. I am honoured by this visit and I am home-sick.”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Content, Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, advocated for export opportunities for Nigeria.

She urged Okonjo-Iweala to help facilitate access to global markets for Nigerian businesses, and enhance export capabilities to bolster economic growth and diversification.

She further expressed concerns about her desire to see Nigeria take advantage of the opportunities that African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) offer, respectively.

She added, “It is my earnest expectation under the President Bola Tinubu-led administration to see Nigeria take advantage of these export opportunities through your support and by working closely with my office as the Senate Chairman on Local Contents.”

She believed that Nigeria amid the acute dollar shortages could tap the opportunities to boost its non-oil exports under AGOA to earn the much-needed foreign exchange for its economy.

The WTO Director-General lauded Senator Natasha for her valuable contributions and promised to look into her recommendations.

She also assured her readiness to collaborate with the Kogi lawmaker for the greater good of Nigeria, especially in the area of trade and commerce.

AGOA, a US trade initiative established in 2000, allows African nations to export various products, especially non-oil goods, to the United States on favourable terms, thereby promoting economic development and trade on the continent.

It has been a crucial lifeline for many African economies, offering opportunities to access the vast American market.

South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar, Lesotho, and Ghana dominated the 2022 non-oil AGOA exports, accounting for 90 per cent of the total non-oil AGOA exports in 2022, with Nigeria missing on the list.

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