Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has pushed for the correction of the huge trade imbalance between China and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region on a win-win basis for both parties.
He made the call as the Chairman of ECOWAS at the opening ceremony of the High-Lebel Dialogue between Chinese and African Leaders and business representatives, at the ongoing 7th Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) holding September 3 – 4, in Beijing.
In 2017, the China-Nigeria bilateral trade volume reached nearly $14 billion with increase of 29.7% over the previous year, while from January to May, 2018, the China-Nigeria bilateral trade volume reached $5.8 billion, with increase of 7.3% over the previous year. Nigeria is the third biggest trade partner of China in Africa.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, between 2013 and 2016, Nigeria’s trade deficit with China was USD 16.9 billion.
Although the balance of trade is skewed in favour of China, Nigeria-China trade accounts for 8.3% of China’s total trade with Africa, and 42% of China’s trade with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
President Buhari while noting that ECOWAS region accounts for some 30 per cent of Africa’s population and GDP, conveyed the appreciation of ECOWAS Member States for China’s increasing investment in the sub-region with the aim of building a prosperous and shared future.
He further noted that China today is the largest investor in the sub-region in both private and public sectors covering areas such as infrastructure, energy, agriculture, mining, healthcare. China, he added also provides significant assistance in emergency humanitarian aid and response to climate change.
The President, however, stressed that “ECOWAS Member States will continue to pay emphasis on encouraging more foreign direct investment in the sub-region.
“To this end, Member States are looking at the opportunities that the China International Import-Export initiative will offer our exporters to gain market access for their goods and services in China.
“Such an opportunity will help in diversifying the economy of our sub-region from over reliance on primary agricultural and mineral products and subsequently correct the huge trade imbalance between China and the ECOWAS sub-region on a win-win basis for both parties.”
President Buhari also noted the various construction projects that are now ongoing in the sub-region, including the construction of railway projects, power infrastructure, airports and numerous roads through Chinese financing.
He said, “While it is pertinent to mention that Member States of ECOWAS are at different stages of development, President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to our sub-region has highlighted the need for even closer collaboration to enable more Chinese investment to support the cause of regional integration and development.
“We should also realise that while China’s help is vital, the main push to transform our economies must come from our own efforts and commitment.
“ECOWAS also welcomes more Chinese tourists to visit West Africa. This will enhance people-to-people exchanges, especially now that Member States are getting involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
“Our sub-region is endowed with enormous tourism potentials. With China’s support, tourism related infrastructure should be developed to empower our citizens, create more employment opportunities among the teeming population and eliminate poverty.
“We would also request visa facilitation for our businessmen and women, and students who seek to visit China.”
The President reiterated the commitment of ECOWAS Member States to “deepening and strengthening institutions in the sub-region, through good governance, the fight against corruption, combating terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime. These are necessary actions if the right conditions for sustainable economic growth in West Africa are to be achieved.”