The Federal Executive Council had in May 2017 approved the establishment of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN) as the standing negotiating body for Nigeria. The office is legally domiciled in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. The mandate provides that all reports and recommendations from the NOTN on trade policy are reviewed by the National Economic Management Team (NEMT) based on memoranda submitted by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, for decision making by the FEC as appropriate. A Director General has been appointed with effect from June 6, 2017 with a four year tenure.
The creation of the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations has been greeted and seen by many as a step in the right direction. The commendation is premised on the fact that there are many benefits and cross-cutting influence that the office will bring on Nigeria’s trade policy and economic diplomacy. Again, it is obvious that at last, Nigeria can now have a coordinating point for harvesting interests and concerns of the various stakeholders and actors on trade and turn them into technical positions and national agenda at the negotiation tables. These thumbs-up are also based on the expectations that negotiations and trade agreements would no longer be shrouded in secrecy and/or undertaken in a staccato manner by every Ministry, Department and Agency (MDAs) of government. Two, NOTN will bring to an end the era where every Minister or Ministry can go out and negotiate and/or sign trade agreements on behalf of Nigeria. It is on record that Nigeria has several existing trade agreements signed by past Ministers or their representatives, yet many of these have not yielded the needed economic dividend for Nigeria and Nigerians.