I. Introduction: A Nigerian and Africa Perspectives

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a perspective on the range of issues confronting the Commonwealth at this time.
At its core, this is a Nigerian Perspective. Yet, I believe it is shared view by many countries Africa, if not all. But, to be clear, in our 55 Member African Union (AU), it is only natural that there is a range of views, perspectives and priorities. Just as it is for the Commonwealth. This is this the richness of our diversity of which many of the differences between and amongst us, are, in reality, complementary.
In many ways, our diversity unites. This is a very Nigerian Lesson!
Let me offer a few remarks on:
1. an Agenda for Growth and the quality of growth;
2. the importance of regional trade integration;
3. Access to global markets; and,
4. how Nigeria sees a 21st Century Role for the Commonwealth.
In summary, Nigeria believes that a carefully defined trade-based Agenda for the Commonwealth is overdue. This is why this inaugural meeting of Trade Ministers is a sound idea. The Commonwealth has a role to play in a global economy in rapid and uncertain transformation. The effectiveness of this role will hinge on an agenda that is modern and, in tune with the technological and policy realities of the 21st Century. Such an agenda would need to reflect objectivity and realism.
No one size will fit all. This role will be one that is adapted to an evolving complex reality that is supportive of open trade multilateralism, and at the same time, regionalism. It should provide scope for bilateral trading arrangements. The global political economy is too complex for one size to fit all.
In Africa, negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA negotiations) are underway. Negotiations are advanced but we have work to do. The 5th Negotiating Forum of the CFTA concluded its work in Addis this last Sunday. The objective is to conclude the negotiations, if we can by the end of this year. Nigeria is providing leadership to the CFTA negotiations. We believe that the level of intra-African Trade should be boosted from its current 19%. Nigeria asks for the support of the Commonwealth as a Group for the CFTA. Many African countries are members of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth, which has evolved from its earliest origins, is based on a partnership with the United Kingdom. In turn, we believe that the Commonwealth, as a Group, should support the United Kingdom, as it deals with its choices over the next couple of years. The United Kingdom definitely has the support of Nigeria.
II. An Agenda for Growth
In a global economic environment in rapid and uncertain transformation, the Commonwealth has a role to play to contribute to a Growth Agenda.
The most pressing tasks for national governments is accelerate growth, ensure enhanced welfare for citizens, and job creation. In doing so, governments must ensure that the quality of growth is high and inclusive.
Recent lessons from the global economy underline the dangerous consequences for non-inclusive growth. It must be the objective of any growth policy that no one is left behind and that growth plans and strategies are sufficiently inclusive with market-based safety nets.
These are the goals to which the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari is committed.
Although priorities in such an agenda for growth may differ, there is certainly a collective role for the Commonwealth with 52 countries, across every Continent, and a combined population of 2.3 billion people, almost a third of the world population.
The question is what will that agenda be?
III. The Importance of Trade and Scope for Commonwealth Trade Expansion
Trade is a central component in any agenda for growth. Countries that are open to trade and increase trade volumes and values grow much faster than those that do not.
o So, as a starting point, the Commonwealth should define collective policy positions that establish the right global context for trade by pushing back against protectionism and taking clear positions in favour of international cooperation for trade expansion.
o It is crucial for the Commonwealth to reaffirm the importance of trade openness that benefits all countries at all levels of development.
o The gains from trade must be widely shared.
o Nigeria believes that there is wide scope for the Commonwealth to move ahead on the basis of an intra-Commonwealth trade and investment, partnerships and joint ventures, concrete action plans and road maps, in areas of defined priorities.
According to recent figures from the Commonwealth Secretariat combined exports of goods and services among members are valued at US$3.4 trillion, which is about 15% of the world’s total exports.
Trade in goods and services within the Commonwealth are currently estimated at $687 billion and is projected to surpass $1 trillion by 2020.
During 2003-13, trade between member countries registered an annual growth rate of about 10%.
If we are bold enough, there is there is potential to radically expand trade in goods, services and intellectual property within the Commonwealth in a way that benefits all.
And the expansion of intra-Commonwealth trade can take place across a range of formats and configurations, including bilateral, regional and cross-Commonwealth configurations.
Nigeria believes that a careful design and construction of Commonwealth Value Chains will be essential in expanding intra-Commonwealth trade and investment.
o Industries must be created everywhere.
o Jobs must be created everywhere.
o The gains from trade should be enjoyed equitably across countries.
IV. Support for Domestic Policy Reforms and Priorities for a Growth Agenda
To maximize the gains from trade, inevitably, the priorities of countries will differ, but not in ways that diverge, but complement the priorities of other economies, including in the Commonwealth.
Nigeria believes that the Commonwealth should support domestic policy reforms in individual countries of the Commonwealth consistent with an open rules-based global economy. Nigeria believes that this is an area where the maximum gains from intra-Commonwealth Cooperation can be harvested.
There are several examples. Let me identify a few (and not necessarily in any particular order):
First, an Enabling Environment for Business that is inseparable from implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Here the focus is on economic modernization and establishing a partnership with the private sector to leverage capital and resources for growth.
Second, growing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Third, construction of Cross-Commonwealth Value Chains in identified areas.
Fourth, consolidating and expanding the Digital Economy. In reality, this is the 21st Century Agenda to encourage and foster innovation and creativity as core sources of growth.
Fifth, expansion of financial services as the arterial connections on which trade and investment cooperation is based.
Sixth, trade Agreements in various configurations across the Commonwealth: bilateral, regional and Cross-Commonwealth.
These are the preliminary policy reflections of Nigeria on how the Commonwealth can rapidly proceed with defining a Growth Agenda and Initiating Commonwealth Trade, in a rapidly changing and uncertain global economic and trade policy environment.