‘Nigeria needs to strictly implement its anti-dumping provisions’
What are the aims and objectives of the Prince Claus Chair?
His Royal Highness Prince Claus in whose honour this Chair was endowed was somebody who had done a lot of work on development and equity around the world, and he strongly believed in the necessity of such work.
The objective of the Chair is to promote innovative ideas of development and equity across the global south. The Prince Claus Chair Curratorium were searching to appoint a leading academic who understands critical issues affecting development in Africa today.
During the selection process the search committee liked the ideas I proposed on the Right of Development.
At the time I highlighted the millennium development goal and the ongoing post-2015 agenda dialogue, particularly in relation to economic development and government obligations in Africa. During the course of my tenure, I have looked at the equity of international trade agreements citing the European Union-West Africa Economic Partnership Agreement and, most recently, the Ebola epidemic as a Right to Development issue.
As a professor of law, and with your appointment to the Chair in 2013, how have you used the opportunity to develop this discourse?
The idea to hold the Prince Claus Chair Roundtable in Lagos, the first of its kind, alongside the African International Economic Law Network biennial conference on April 29 and 30 was to elevate this discussion in Africa.
The idea was to have leading Africans experts in diverse fields, including international law, public health and financial services speak on development issues in Africa. I also convened a second PCC Roundtable on May 27 in the Hague, the Netherlands, where a group of renowned international lawyers analysed the Right to Development as it approaches its 30th anniversary in 2016 and proposed pragmatic ideas for its future implementation. In addition to my own research, both Roundtables are being distilled into edited volumes that will be published as lasting contributions on the subject.
What are the areas in International Economic Law that need improvement to facilitate development in Africa?
International trade has been a main driver of development in developed countries around the world. I am a firm believer in enhancing intra-African trade, which can have significant benefits for the entire region as we trade with the rest of the world. Trade openness (level of connectivity with the global economy through trade) is typically indicative of a country’s level of development and the balance of trade also shows you the level of goods going out and coming into an economy. Many African countries are dealing with the similar issues, over-dependence on single commodities and primary trade partners. Nigeria, for instance, is an import dependent country, with the exception of petroleum, our export capacity is depressed for several reasons.
For sustainable and inclusive growth and development, Nigeria needs to focus on large scale value-added exports in areas such as Agriculture, services and manufacturing so we can properly integrate into the global value chain. To achieve this, internally, we need friendly trade policies such as trade facilitation and tax policies that would encourage indigenous companies to export.
Also, we need to fix our infrastructure in the area of power and transportation networks to reduce inefficiencies and help Nigerian businesses to be competitive regionally and globally. We need to encouraged indigenous companies, and pay more attention to their ease of doing business regionally and internationally.
Externally, Nigeria must be more engaged and carefully negotiate or re-negotiate obligations of bilateral, regional and multilateral trade and investment agreements, and then fully maximize the terms and obligations under these agreements.
Who are the membership of the African International Economic Law Network?
The African International Economic Law Network is the regional network of the Society of International Economic Law (SIEL). AfIELN was established to facilitate dialogue between academics, practitioners and policy makers from across continent and beyond on issues pertinent to the African continent. SIEL holds conferences biennially in different parts of the world discussing issues across the gambit of international economic law, and its regional networks in Latin America, Europe, Asia, North America and of course Africa also hold conferences every two years.
What advice do you have for the administration of President Buhari in the area of trade?
As I just mentioned, we have signed some trade and investment agreements which are not currently being maximised. There are also a couple of regional agreements currently being negotiated, such as the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) and the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) that we need to pay close attention to these agreements and have a solid negotiation strategy in place. The upcoming WTO Ministerial holding in Kenya later in the year is an important opportunity to influence international trade policy that shouldn’t be missed.
For immediate action, there are some areas where local producers are hemorrhaging badly because there is lot of dumping going on in our markets, so we need to strictly implement our anti-dumping provisions and curb smuggling. Again, diversification of our exports is key for sustainable and inclusive development, particularly our agriculture exports, because the vast majority of our population are agrarian.
Fixing our infrastructure deficit and supporting pro-trade policies will go a long way in creating a conducive environment in Nigeria both for domestic and foreign businesses operating in Nigeria.
What other bill will you want the National Assembly to pass?
I’ll say the Petroleum Industry Bill. Since our economy is still so dependent on petroleum, particularly for foreign exchange earnings, passing the bill will bring certainty into the petroleum sector and the economy, particularly with the current depression in global price of oil.
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