This Day | 12.14.2009
From Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa yesterday in Abuja said Nigeria and the Republic of Thailand have commenced negotiation and signing of bilateral and investment agreement in commercial agriculture in Nigeria particularly in rice production and processing.
The minister acknowledged that Nigeria is the biggest buyer and consumer of Thai’s rice the world over. He said, “during my meeting with the Thai Minister of Trade, he expressed his country’s willingness to invest in commercial agriculture in Nigeria, particularly rice product and processing.
Other areas of joint venture agreement, according to Udenwa, is Oil and Gas.
He said this while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Seventh World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference, held recently in Geneva, Switzerland.
With Thailand as the highest exporter of rice to Nigeria, the minister said it is expedient for both countries to seek better ways of greater collaboration in the production of the staple food.
He said the cooperation will be in the establishment of rice farms by the Thais in Nigeria’s Free Trade Zones.
Udenwa said the establishment of the joint venture will be preceded with the exchange of visits at the ministerial and official levels and organization of Trade Missions by the two countries early next year.
He said the process for the signing of a strong economic cooperation and bilateral trade and investment should be initiated by both countries immediately.
“The process of signing a Bilateral Agreement with Thailand is a fallout of one of the major discussions of the World Trade Conference which stipulates that countries should be free to trade with one another based on transparency, all inclusive and mutually beneficial to both countries,” he said.
Udenwa pointed out that the conference in Geneva which brought together over 3,000 delegates from 153 countries provided an opportunity for WTO members of which Nigeria is one to focus not only exclusively on Doha round but also to take stock of the overall multilateral trading system.
He said members resolved to avoid protectionist measures following the financial crisis that is being witnessed globally with more severe impact on the least developed and developing countries of the world.
Udenwa added that the conference also aimed at providing guidance and the way forward for the successful completion of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations. He said the consensus of the delegates were the need for early and successful conclusion of the DDA by 2010. This according to him underscored the value of the WTO Dispute Settlement process as an invaluable asset for the Multilateral Trading System, the need for transparency, primacy and all inclusiveness in the WTO negotiation process. He said this value of the WTO underlined the need for development which is at the heart of the negotiations.
He said the major issue that dominated discussion was the policy on whether or not to grant free Market Access to countries to trade peacefully without trade inhibition and tariffs.
The minister expressed confidence that Nigeria has technical and skilled experts presently representing it in Geneva. He was optimistic that the final outcome in 2010 will place Nigeria in favourable position on its trading relations with the rest of the world.
He said the regular meetings of an enlarged focal point in Nigeria who are presently at alert will also provide input for the Nigeria’s technical expert on trade matters in Geneva. Udenwa pointed out that the only way for Nigeria to meet up Countries like China, Brazil and South Africa who are also members of the developing nations is by working hard and keying into the Campaign of Made in Nigeria Goods. He said Nigeria is presently undergoing reforms to meet with all these challenges.According to him, the country must work hard, make sacrifices, Nigerians must shun smuggling by consuming its goods. Adding, “smugglers deprive the local manufacturers market and consequently deprived the nation’s teeming youths jobs.”