President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday decried what he called the large imbalance between Nigeria and China and stressed the need for the gap to be reduced.
At the opening of a Nigeria-China Business/Investment Forum at the beginning of his weeklong economic and state visit to China, Buhari stressed that trade and economic relations between both countries must be mutually beneficial and conducted with reciprocated respect and trust.
To achieve that, the president called on the Nigerian and Chinese business communities to work harder to reduce the trade imbalance between both countries which is currently in China’s favour.
Business and trade relations between Nigeria and China have grown astronomically in the last decade with bilateral trade volumes rising from $2.8 billion in 2005 to $14.9 billion in 2015.
Nigeria accounted for 8.3 per cent of the total trade volume between China and Africa and 42 per cent of the total trade volume between China and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries in 2015.
According to the president, although the Nigerian and Chinese business communities have recorded tremendous successes in bilateral trade, there is a large trade imbalance in favour of China as Chinese exports represent some 80 per cent of the total bilateral trade volumes.
“This gap needs to be reduced. Therefore, I would like to challenge the business communities in both countries to work together to reduce the trade imbalance.
“You must also imbibe the spirit of having a mutually beneficial relationship in your business transactions. You must not see Nigeria as a consumer market alone, but as an investment destination where goods can be manufactured and consumed locally,” Buhari told the gathering.
The president said his administration was committed to supporting investors that were ready to establish manufacturing and processing facilities in Nigeria.
“Last year during our meeting in New York, President Xi Jinping and I agreed to explore ways of practical cooperation in trade, investment, finance, human resources, agriculture and fishing.
“We also agreed to strengthen industrial capacity cooperation in the manufacture of cars, household appliances, construction materials, textiles, food processing, and others. This is in line with our government’s focus on import substitution through the creation of a diversified and inclusive economy that will meet most of our consumption needs.
“Already, our Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is working on projects and programmes that will correct the wrongs of the past and enhance the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
“The ministry’s efforts will be complemented by investment tax incentive programmes, public sector reform initiatives as well as our zero tolerance stance on corruption.
“We also have an aggressive but realistic infrastructure development programme that forms the backbone of our economic diversification policy. We are embarking on major power, road, rail, seaport and airport development programmes that will enhance the competitiveness of manufacturing businesses in Nigeria.
“The future is bright and I am very confident that our policies will make Nigeria the investment destination of your choice,” Buhari told the Chinese investors.
The president also assured them that his administration was doing everything possible to address concerns about security in Nigeria.
Buhari said that to consolidate recent successes against Boko Haram, close to 20 per cent of the 2016-budgetted expenditure has been allocated to the Ministries of Defence and Interior and as well as other security agencies.
“We are committed to protecting all lives and property within our borders. You can therefore rest assured that your investments in Nigeria will be safe and secure,” he said.
Meanwhile, the president has directed that technical committees be immediately set up to finalise discussions on new Joint Nigeria/China Projects on Rail, Power, Manufacturing, Agricultural and Solid Mineral.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu yesterday quoted the president as giving the directive in Beijing after talks between his delegation and high-ranking Chinese government officials led by President Xi Jinping.
The technical committees are to conclude their assignments before the end of next month. The talks are part of the president’s weeklong trip to China
Buhari had at the talks welcomed China’s readiness to assist Nigeria in her bid to rapidly industrialise and join the world’s major economies.
Jinping agreed that Nigeria’s chosen path of development through economic diversification was the best way to go. To assist Nigeria to achieve this, China promised to fully support the country through infrastructural development and capacity building.
China also expressed an interest in setting up major projects in Nigeria such as refineries, power plants, mining companies, textile manufacturing and food processing industries as soon as the Federal Government provides the enabling environment.
“In response to Buhari’s desire to make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production, President Jinping offered 15 million U.S. dollars agricultural assistance to Nigeria for the establishment of 50 Agricultural Demonstration Farms across the country.
“China and Nigeria also agreed to strengthen military and civil service exchanges as part of a larger capacity-building engagement.
“In line with this, China offered to raise its scholarship awards to Nigerian students from about 100 to 700 annually. In addition, 1,000 other Nigerians are to be given vocational and technical training by China annually.
President Jinping applauded the war against corruption being waged by President Buhari. The Chinese leader assured President Buhari that Nigeria will always have a special place in the affairs of the Peoples Republic of China.
After the talks, Buhari and Jinping witnessed the signing of several agreements and memorandums of understanding by Nigeria and China.”
The agreements include a “Framework Agreement Between the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the Peoples Republic of China among a others”
A “Mandate Letter Between the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Central Bank of Nigeria on Renminbi (RMB) Transactions” was also signed. The Guardian