LAGOS — Nigeria and China, yesterday, agreed to explore making Nigeria a major manufacturing zone for China’s key industrial enterprises.

Director, Chongqing Liangjing New Area, China, Mr. Weng Jieming, said Chongqing had five key industries, including automobiles and motorcycles, petroleum and natural gas, equipment manufacture, new materials and high-tech industry, which had key investments in many countries of the world.

He said apart from encouraging companies in Chongqing to export their goods to Nigeria, the government would also “support the companies, especially in the motorcycle and automobiles industry, to make direct investments in Nigeria for local production.”

He said this when the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga, visited Chongqing, the largest and most important industrial city at the upper reaches of Yangtze River and Southwest China. This is where China’s major Free Trade Zones, which contribute about 20 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, are located.

Aganga had said, during a meeting with his counterpart at the Ministry of Commerce, China, Mr. Fu Ziying, that making Nigeria a major manufacturing zone for most of China’s products would go a long way in correcting the trade imbalance between the two countries and creating jobs for Nigerians.

Aganga said the availability of raw materials and a ready market in Nigeria for “quality” Chinese products would make the deal a win-win situation for both countries. He said it was important, in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda, for the trade relationship between Nigeria and China to be reappraised in favour of job creation, noting that emphasis should not only be placed on export of goods to Nigeria but on actual production in the country.

He urged Chinese companies, through the help of the China Development Bank, to invest in critical infrastructure in Nigeria, noting that local industries in Nigeria would also benefit from the improved business environment that would result from sound infrastructure.

“It makes economic sense for Chinese companies to come and manufacture in Nigeria because Nigeria is strategic, it has the market and raw materials. We would also focus on backward integration so that other industries can spring up and the value chain strengthened,” Aganga told Jieming on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government and the Chinese government have agreed to ensure that the Lekki Free Trade Zone commences full operation in 18 months.

The President, China Railway Construction Corporation Limited, Mr. Zhao Guangfa, during a meeting with Aganga on Tuesday night, urged the Federal Government to remove the bottlenecks hindering the progress of the Lekki Free Trade Zone project, noting that such projects initiated at about the same time in other countries had been completed.

Consequently, a committee, made up of representatives of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce and CRCC, was constituted to review the underlying problems and resolve the issues with a view to completing the project between 12 and 18 months. “The LFTZ is a project that will attract significant Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria and plug the unemployment gap considerably,” Guangfa said.



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