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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Kalu Meets with Okonjo-Iweala to Seek WTO’s Assistance with Contamination of Agricultural Products During Export

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The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ben Kalu, has requested the cooperative efforts of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in enhancing the exportation of primary products from Nigeria and Africa in general.

Mr Kalu made the call, Monday, when he visited the Director-General of the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Geneva on the sidelines of the ongoing 148th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Switzerland.

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In a statement by his spokesperson, Levinus Nwabughiogu, the deputy speaker informed Mrs Okonjo-Iweala of the challenges African farmers face in exporting their products.

Mr Kalu mentioned that African businessmen encounter obstacles in marketing their products, primarily due to aflatoxins contaminating them en route to their destinations. He added that the challenge is particularly evident within the context of “The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA),” which provides duty-free treatment to goods from specified sub-Saharan African countries (SSAs).

He, therefore, asked for the assistance of the WTO to establish centers in Africa for the treatment of primary products packaged for export.

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“Africa is interested in exporting our primary products. We have always had issues with these primary products we are exporting. Aflatoxins, I don’t know what you are putting together to help these products reduce that because it’s one of the complaints about products coming from Africa.

“I don’t know if there will be centers around Africa where businessmen who cannot afford to do this decontamination will get that particular center and detoxify their products to be able to meet the quality specifications before selling them off. Is WTO interested in this and how much so? Are there programs designed to be able to facilitate this?” Mr Kalu inquired.

Responding to Mr Kalu’s inquiries, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said that WTO is aware of the development and is also eager to assist countries in implementing their respective protocols on the issue.

“At the WTO, we have been heavily promoting something we called re-globalization. We are trying to persuade supply chains of companies located outside Africa, we are trying to tell them that this is also a good place.

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“WTO is very much aware. Many of the rules are built based on our rules. So, we have an interest in keeping in touch and making sure any country that wants to request our help to implement their protocols and so on will be able to do that. And we hope it will take off in a good way.

“Now, one big thing we have to watch is, we cannot all trade the same thing to each other. We are growing primary products. We are not going to trade cocoa to Cote d’Ivoire. We can trade oil because most of them want oil, but we don’t just want to trade that,” she said.

Parliamentary Diplomacy: Kalu slams IPU over Gaza

Meanwhile, in his speech at the IPU General Debate themed: “Parliamentary Diplomacy; Building Bridges for Peace and Understanding” on Monday, Mr Kalu spoke on the use of parliamentary diplomacy by Nigeria’s parliament to settle issues outside the shores of the country.

He mentioned the intervention by the Nigerian parliament during the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa in 2017 and 2019.

The lawmaker criticized the IPU for failing to reach a consensus on the Gaza cease-fire proposed by Nigeria’s Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.

“Sunday’s deliberation on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza showed us what parliamentary diplomacy should not be. We failed to reach a consensus, missing a crucial opportunity for collective action,” Mr Kalu said.

Mr Akpabio had proposed a ceasefire; however, the body could not reach a consensus on the proposal.

Mr Kalu urged lawmakers present at the IPU to adopt parliamentary diplomacy to address the challenges facing the world. He also called for the setting up of a task force for Sudan.

“It is a cause for concern that the plight of Africa, where thousands of lives are lost to ongoing conflicts, has yet to be addressed as an emergency item.

“It is in this regard that IPU must as a matter of utmost imperative create a task force for Sudan. The unchecked crises in Sudan, Somalia, and D.R. Congo, all in Africa, create a ripple effect of instability across the continent, breeding conditions for extremism, mass displacement, and a drain on resources that could be used for development,” Mr Kalu said.

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