ABUJA â€“ China’s For eign Minister Yang Jiechi held talks with Nigerian officials Friday on oil exports to energy-hungry Beijing.
China was looking for imports but negotiations with Nigeria had only started, said Yang, who is on a tour of Africa.
“Of course, in China, we do need to import oil from other countries including Nigeria but at the moment, I think we have just made a beginning,” he told reporters at the end of a closed-door meeting.
Yang said the two countries enjoyed “good cooperation” in energy matters and “it is a mutually beneficial relationship and progress has been made”.
He gave no details of the talks which were also attended by former OPEC secretary general and Nigeria’s Oil Minister Rilwanu Lukman.
China’s state oil giant CNOOC last year made an offer to buy six billion barrels of oil from Nigeria, but the bid was turned down. The amount is equivalent to one in every six barrels of the proven reserves in Nigeria.
The bid pitches China into competition with Western oil giants operating in Nigeria including Shell, Chevron, Total and ExxonMobil.
Nigeria was for years Africa’s largest oil exporter but it has been caught up recently by Angola.
China has aggressively stepped up trade and economic ties with the resource-rich Africa in recent years, prompting critics to accuse it of taking a “neo-colonialist” attitude.
Yang said Nigeria’s exports to China shot up about 50 percent in 2009. “We are going to import even more from Nigeria,” he said.
In November at a meeting of China-Africa leaders in Egypt, Beijing pledged 10 billion dollars in concessional loans to African countries.
The Friday talks also discussed boosting communication technology and the development of Nigeria’s dilapidated railway infrastructure, officials said.
A 257-million-dollar Chinese-built satellite launched into space less than two years ago for Nigeria’s communications’ revolution failed last year and could not be recovered.
On the political front, the west African giant, struggling to regain the international clout built during former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s era, is also seeking Chinese government backing for its for a UN Security Council seat.
“We believe that African countries deserve a bigger say within the framework of the UN Security Council,” said Yang pledging to work closely with Nigeria in attempts at reforming the UN Security Council.
Immigration, security, extradition issues were also lined up for discussion, said the ministry of foreign affairs, adding that Nigerians had built up a reputation for violence, drug-trafficking and over-staying their visas which is an “embarrassment to the image” of the country.Yang has already been to Kenya and is due to continue on Saturday to Sierra Leone, Algeria and Morocco.