Nigeria: Why Nigeria Should Join AFCTA

25 March 2019
opinion

Inclusiveness will help the continent a great deal, argues Rufai Oseni

Trade is the cornerstone of man's existence. This was palpable when Ben Gurion said, "Moses is Moses, business is business".

The First Anglo-Dutch War was caused by disputes over trade. The war began with English attacks on Dutch merchant shipping, but expanded to vast fleet actions. The Second Anglo-Dutch War was for control over the seas and trade routes, where England tried to end the Dutch domination of world trade during a period of intense European commercial rivalry. The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War was over British and Dutch disagreements on the legality and conduct of Dutch trade with Britain's enemies in that war. The Shimonoseki Campaign was after the unrest over the Shogunate's open-door policy to foreign trade. The First Opium War which started after the Qing government blockaded its ports and confined British traders, resulted in the dispatch of the British Navy to China and engaged the Chinese Navy in the Battle of Kowloon. The First Opium War eventually led to the British colony of Hong Kong, and the Second Opium War, which arose from another trade war with the same underlying causes, expanded the British possessions on the island.

Trade has always been in the centre of man's interactions. Former Prime Minister of France Clemenceau once said, "Oil is more important than blood". All lot of killings over trade have become the hallmark of man's existence because man trades in every place he goes. The colonization of Nigeria was as a result of a trading decision; the British colonized African nations through charter companies that had business considerations all over Africa. Goldie Tubman, the leader of the Royal Niger Company, became so influential trading in oil palm and other commodities.

The ingenuity for trade and commerce in Nigeria has always been unmatched.

Records show that British palm-oil purchased in Nigeria stood at 36,583 tonnes with a value of 1,756,000 as at 1854.German exports of palm kernels from Nigeria as at 1890 stood at 52,440 tonnes. The trade was so palpable, as at 1900 there was a Lagos - Hamburg direct shipping line called the Woerman line.

Trade indigenization also continued with the ingenuity of Nigerian business men, the likes of the Dantata, Okunowo who made damask and the Adeola Odutola who was producing bicycle tyres as at the 1960s.

The good old days in Nigeria was the trading days. Hence we need to go back to trading.

On the international scene, trade had been everything across Europe and America; trading considerations was the order of the day. Suffice to say when America opened up its trade potential in the 1800s, the country grew astronomically. Developed countries also sort different trading blocs.

After the Second World War, the dynamics of trade changed tremendously, the war had decimated Europe and the poverty had to be turned with trade, hence the Bretton Wood conference of 1945 that also lead to GATT, General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs

GATT was first discussed during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment and was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). GATT was signed by 23 nations in Geneva on 30 October 1947, and took effect on 1 January 1948. It remained in effect until the signature by 123 nations in Marrakesh on 14 April 1994, of the Uruguay Round Agreements, which established the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 1 January 1995. The WTO is a successor to GATT, and the original GATT text (GATT 1947) is still in effect under the WTO framework, subject to the modifications of GATT 1994. This agreement opened up the trading potential of the world. The European economic union that finally became EU was also a trading union. In the south of America they have Mercosur, China had to build a railing to Europe under the belt and road initiative to facilitate trade. Trade is of the essence in everything.

In 1991,when Francis Fukuyama wrote his book on the end of history, little did he know that the partnership that heralded the trading blocs were going to change and this started in 1990s when the Berlin Wall fell and a disruption happened with nation states leading to more nativists movement. This further increased after the 2008 economic disaster that ushered in nationalistic government all over the west. This prepared the ground for the likes of Donald Trump that has trumpeted his ethos of protectionism. That is bad for trade. Donald trump replaced NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement; Spanish: Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte, TLCAN; French: Accord de libre-échange nord-américain, ALÉNA) which is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the 1988 Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Canada, and is expected to be replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement once it is ratified.

While that happened, the likes of England came out of the single market in the EU bolstered by Eurosceptics and the cynicism of nationalist like the UK Independent Party. This has left a precarious outlook on trade. The current tariff war between America and China & Germany has been bewildering. All of this shows that the blocs of trade are definitely affected, but the ray of hope is that others have shown leadership. Example is the leadership Rwanda has shown with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. While all of the uncertainty continues, I believe greater inclusiveness would help nations. It is a global village and global possibilities abound, and that is why we should encourage, not division that stifles trade and removal of immigrants. Immigrants have the ingenuity to build every nation. In fact we are all immigrants. The polish immigrants in Britain put up to 20 billion into the British economy year-on-year. For trade to grow and impact our society we need to partner. It is shocking that inter-Africa trade is less than 10 per cent. We need to break those barriers with technology and societal inclusion and build viable and stronger partnerships. Nigeria should sign AFcta now and we should innovate with trade.

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