Nigeria-China relations: FG set to diversify cooperation to reduce trade imbalance

Nigeria-China relations: FG set to diversify cooperation to reduce trade imbalance
United Bank for Africa

The Federal Government says it is set to explore diverse areas with China to reduce the “huge trade imbalance” between both countries.

Dr Adeyemi Dipeolu, Special Adviser to the Vice President on Economic Matters, said this at the 2019 Belt and Road Nigeria and China Economic and Trade Forum in Abuja on Tuesday.

“A good starting point will be the importation of processed goods from Nigeria rather than raw materials.

“We expect in particular as relations are deepened that the funding provided to support Nigeria’s development will come increasingly in the form of investments rather than as loans.

“We would also like to see greater cooperation between the private sector companies in both countries in order to leverage on their respective strengths.”

Dipeolu emphasised that there was already substantial economic activity between both countries, with China being Nigeria’s largest trading partner in 2017 and with 25 per cent of imports from that country.

“The value of the exports to Nigeria was about $12.15 billion as compared to imports from Nigeria of about $721 million.

“The extent of Nigeria’s imports from China helps to explain the importance of the bilateral currency swap between both countries.

“The swap which is for 15 billion Chinese Yuan for N720 billion over a three-year period helps to facilitate trade between both countries while reducing direct demand for third currencies,” he said.

He, however, said that there was still a lot to be done in terms of economic cooperation between Nigeria and China, despite notable economic ties.

He said the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), intended to bring about macroeconomic stability and diversification of the productive base of the economy, drew some insights from the Chinese experience.

He also said that the priorities of the ERGP in several areas would scale up China-Nigeria cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

These areas include agriculture, food security, energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, transportation infrastructure and manufacturing.

The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Maritime Silk Road, is an open and inclusive international platform provided by China with the principle of achieving shared growth.

Nigeria at the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in September 2018 signed 13 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding with Chinese corporations under the BRI.

Dipeolu said that Nigeria sought to achieve under the Belt and Road Initiative, that China transit from a trading partner to a “strategic investor” through direct participation in Nigeria’s economy by Chinese firms.

Mr Muhammad Bello, Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), said the forum was timely as Nigeria was in the process of diversifying its economy.

Bello said the country was poised to take advantage of all the BRI offered to achieve its economic diversification and infrastructural development goals.

Mr Ernest Afolabi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, said the BRI was committed to the principles of “extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit.”

Afolabi stressed that the initiative would align China’s development with other countries and enhance synergy and cooperation under the BRI.

“This will be conducive to expand regional investment and domestic demand, job creation and poverty reduction to a higher level of development of the entire region as well as improving trade connectivity between Nigeria and China through investments,”

Mr Zhao Yong, Charge d’Affaires, Chinese Embassy in Nigeria said Nigeria-China cooperation would continue firmly under the BRI, adding that Africa was an indispensable part of the Belt and Road map.

“Next week, China will hold the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

“More than 1,500 distinguished guests from over 100 countries and international organisations are expected in Beijing to discuss topics of deepening Belt and Road cooperation between China and Belt and Road countries.”