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The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has allayed fears that embracing the free trade policy of the world body would harm Nigeria’s economic diversification drive.
Fielding questions after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Monday, she affirmed that special and differential treatment could be applied to prevent vulnerable countries from collapsing under completion.
However, she added that the special treatment would not be forever as such countries would have to eventually open up for competition.
The former Nigerian Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy also said duties could be applied on imports to prevent the country from being a dumping ground.
Okonjo-Iweala conceded that despite lifting millions out of poverty, free trade has not been beneficial to all especially women, saying that in recognition of this, the WTO has a deliberate policy to support women.
She said she had discussions in many areas with President Buhari on how the WTO could do not improve the Nigerian economy.
According to her, there is a unique opportunity for the country to improve its standing in trade and add value to its products especially agriculture.
While noting that Nigeria’s shea butter was denied access to the United States and European markets because of poor quality, she said the country could “trade more, export more and add value to its products.”
The DG noted that Nigeria must out-market others, stressing that there is a high demand for the country’s fashion in other African countries but it has not been able to leverage on it.
On COVID-19, the former minister advised the country to set up local vaccine manufacturing as she noted that coronavirus would not be the last pandemic.
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