The European Union (EU) has reported Nigeria to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for banning the importation of milk and its derivatives.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okojo-Iweala, who gave the hint when she visited the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in Abuja yesterday, also said the global body would reduce export restrictions on medical supplies and equipment, especially in this era of COVID-19 pandemic..
Okonjo-Iweala told the CBN management, led by Godwin Emefiele, that the EU sent a letter to the WTO expressing displeasure with Nigeria’s policy on dairy products.
She said: “We have a complaint against Nigeria from the EU about the violation of the Balance of Payment (BOP) agreement with respect to trying to protect the dairy industry and they feel that this is not the right instrument.
“As DG WTO, I have to make this known. This is an issue which you said you will like to engage in a little more detail so we can discuss that later about it.”
Okojo-Iweala explained that the WTO has some “remedies” that could help Nigeria protect its industries and prevent dumping without “banning things.”
Expressing support for Nigeria’s plan to establish a trade remedies authority, the WTO boss said it would help the country “use those remedies as a tool to help our industries to grow.”
The CBN and some companies in the milk and dairy industry had at their February 2020 meeting agreed that “ the importation of milk and its derivatives shall only be allowed for FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria; Chi Ltd; TG Arla Dairy products Limited; Promasidor Nigeria Limited; Nestle Nigeria PLC (MSK only) and Integrated Dairies Limited.”
Emefiele said the process to bring milk and its derivatives had been on for six years, with many producers treating the matter with levity.
He told the WTO team about a company in the dairy business for over 60 years in Nigeria that has not deemed it necessary to engage in backward integration.
Emefiele said: “At that meeting(February 2020), we took a decision that those who are not embracing our backward integration programme with the dairy industry should be restricted. It was not my decision, it was a decision taken by all at the meeting.”.
The CBN governor also told Okonjo-Iweala that Nigeria needed help from the WTO because “ other people might have seen or said a few things about the way we’ve conducted our trade.”
“We need to give a chance to our own local industry to grow; we need to give chance to our local industries to create jobs and employment,” he added.
At another meeting in Abuja with members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Okonjo-Iweala said the WTO was working to make the fight against the pandemic easier for its member countries by reducing export restrictions on health-related products and equipment.
Her words: “The main reason we are here is really to see how the WTO can support Nigeria, in improving its economy. And part of doing that is the health. We are in a pandemic and of course, you cannot advance the economy until you take care of the health aspects.
“What is happening is the arrival of COVID vaccines, the distribution and the challenges, the opportunities on the way of that and what the WTO can do.
“One of the things that WTO can do is to work with members to reduce export restrictions. In the supply chain, so many products and equipment are global. When a country puts export restrictions on one, it means that you slow the production everywhere, that’s where the WTO comes in because we have certain rules that members should abide by.
“We are here to see what we can do to support Nigeria. I have to personally say, I was chair of GAVI, the vaccine alliance, for five years. We will continue to push that and we want to see what the challenges and opportunities are and how it’s going.”
Secretary the Government of the Federation (SGF) and PTF Chairman Boss Mustapha noted that the pandemic came with a lot of effects and impacts on the nation’s economy.
He quickly added that it provided an opportunity for Nigeria to have a second look at its systems.
Mustapha said: “The good thing about COVID-19 is that it has exposed the weaknesses of all systems. Even the most established democracies and economies have been brought to their knees by the adverse effects of COVID-19.
“I think the developing economies stand to benefit if they learn from the lessons of this adverse impacts and look at their systems, their governance system, their economic foundations, and the need to heighten inclusion in the way we develop our agendas and our programmes.”