How Nigeria can negotiate better international trade deals- Experts

Dickson Yeboah, former head, Course on Intensive Trade Negotiations Skills, World Trade Organisation (WTO), has said Nigeria needs skilled trade negotiators, and a more inclusive approach among others to negotiate better trade deals at bilateral and multilateral levels.

Yeboah told BusinessDay in an interview Nigeria has in the past signed deals that did not really favour its interest and that skilled negotiations are a way out of poverty, recession, and economic hardship.

Nigeria has entered into over 550 trade agreements with countries and entities over the years and signed more than 100 trade policies in the last decade, but experts say they have not really yielded gains but have rather worked to the country’s disadvantage. This has heightened calls for a review of the country’s trade agreements and policies.

“The Nigerian government must approach trade negotiations with the dexterity it requires while negotiating ‎from a position of its strength,” said Franklin Akinsoloye, ‎President Association of Business Development Service professionals and a National Quality expert for United Nation’s Industrial Development Organization, (UNIDO) had said in an interview with BusinessDay.

However, Yeboah, the retired expert at WTO advised the government to empower the business community with trade negotiation skills to ensure inclusiveness and representation.

“Thailand organised a negotiation skills course for the business community and therefore all spheres of the business in Thailand were represented at the top level.

“We can organise this course for our business community for them to appreciate the challenges facing Nigerian negotiators, add the contribution they can make to influence certain decisions internationally,” he said.

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Yeboah also urged negotiators in the country to consult with the business community such as the manufacturers association, the academia, and all interested stakeholders to harmonise the interest of Nigeria. This, according to him, can guarantee a better trade deal for Nigeria.

Yonov Agah, director-general, NOTN, and Chief Trade Negotiator (CTN) also observed that Nigeria did not always negotiate in her best interest.

“We made our mistakes, those of us old enough to know about the second National Development Plan whose objectives were a country that was self-reliant and independent, today, can anybody can tell me that there is an independent and self-reliant country?

“Even as individuals, we are no longer independent and self-reliant. So, we need to begin to develop the skills that will help us position Nigeria as a member of the international community that can fight for its interest, and can derive maximum benefits from participating in various trade amendments and configurations.

He further said the timing of the training is apt because Nigeria is currently undergoing various types of negotiations. “We need inputs from you (participants)and you need to understand what the inputs should look like, you need to understand the issues.

While delivering his closing remarks at the end of the course in Abuja, Paul Ogbu, a legal advisor at NOTN, who represented the Ambassador charged the participants to be thorough in negotiations, and have a good knowledge of the interest of Nigeria and other countries.

Speaking further on how Nigeria can get better deals from trade negotiations, the Ambassador said there must be a harmonised interest across ministries and agencies and negotiators must not see themselves as just representing the interest of their organisation, but Nigeria’s. He informed that government will ensure that all interests of stakeholders is understood before negotiations.

“We need to have that concerted, togetherness, if we harness the interest from various MDAs we will be able to put together Nigerian interest, it’s not an internal interest. We work together as one, and negotiate on behalf of Nigeria.”

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