By NBF News

The chairperson of the Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, Ambassador Mario Matus, has commended the Nigerian government for its robust and broad-based economic reforms, at the 4th WTO Trade Review.

He gave the commendation during the concluding part of deliberations at the meeting at WTO's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Matus, in a statement by the Assistant Director, Press, Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Bolaji Kazeem, hailed the steps taken by Nigeria to simplify customs procedures and recognised Nigeria's efforts at diversification of the economy and regulatory reforms.

He added that the reforms had to continue and be accelerated if Nigeria is to meet its own ambitious development goals.

The chairperson pointed out that the fourth Trade Policy Review of Nigeria had given them a better understanding of the country'' recent economic, trade and policy development adding: 'This had enabled them collectively to measure the challenges Nigeria currently faces in improving its economic prosperity.'

Matus said that members welcomed the reduction in the average applied rate to Most Favoured Nation, MFN, tariff, from 29 per cent in 2003 to 12 per cent in 2009 and reduction in the number of products on the import prohibition list.

He added that certain measures taken by Nigeria might not be compatible with its WTO commitments in such areas like import prohibition and restrictions, as well as Nigeria Content Development Act, which discriminates against foreign suppliers of goods and services in the oil and gas sector.

The WTO meeting, however, suggested a number of areas where reforms could be beneficial to Nigeria and help strengthen its international trade and investment policies, such as domestication of WTO agreement in Nigeria to give legal effect to it in local court and reform of multiplicity of other taxes and charges to import, in addition to custom duties; difficult registration procedures and high cost of doing business in Nigeria; large number of draft bills before the National Assembly yet to be passed and burdensome customs procedures and documentation which need to be streamlined.

WTO members urged Nigeria to implement its planned reforms in competition policy, contingency measures, the petroleum industry and public utilities, while asking the country to provide full transparency of its laws and regulations on import procedures and customs regulations.

Delegates noted that there was significant gap between the applied MFN tariffs and the bound rates and low level of tariff binding which created uncertainty and urged Nigeria to make its tariffs more predictable.

They also encouraged Nigeria to jettison out-dated intellectual property right and speed up the passage of the new Intellectual Property Bill before the National Assembly, lamenting the poor state of infrastructure and lauding government's new power sector roadmap and progress made in privatisation and divestment in power generation, distribution and transmission.