By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has described the United States as Nigeria’s main trading partner and one of ‘‘our most important diplomatic partners.’’
This, he said, underscored the need for concerted efforts to increase the volume of bilateral trade.
Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s spokesman in a statement, said Buhari atated this at a meeting with the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) at the Nigeria International Economic Partnership Forum,
The meeting was held on the margins of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York, on Thursday.
The Nigerian leader told the gathering that in 2020, Nigeria exported over $1.69 billion worth of goods to the US, adding that these exports were primarily made up of crude oil and other petroleum products.
”Nigeria’s capability is not just limited to the oil and gas industry, but variety of other sectors that hold notable potentials.
”We are the largest economy in Africa and have over 200 million-strong consumer market that is home to a range of attractive opportunities in sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, light manufacturing, infrastructure development and technology.
”The beauty of this forum is that the Ministers responsible for all of these sectors are here today, as are some of Nigeria’s premier business leaders who are already excelling in these spaces, ” he said.
According to Buhari, Nigeria is open to deepening collaboration with BCIU, and pledged this administration’s continued commitment to maintain an enabling business environment that is friendly to foreign investors.
”Going into partnerships with trusted local and foreign partners who have well-established networks and understand the dynamics of the country is one way to guarantee success in Nigeria.
”Today’s event provides a platform for businesses under the BCIU umbrella to make connections with credible Nigerian partners.
”I trust that this event will help build partnerships that will translate into increased trade and investment flows between Nigeria and the United States,” he said.
Apprising the business executives on the current Administration’s economic policy, Buhari said since 2015, the focus had been on economic diversification.
”And successfully, ”the economy is on a path of sustainable and inclusive growth through an open, rules-based and market-oriented way of doing business.”
The president emphasised that his major objectives for the forum was to garner support from the BCIU for two of Nigeria’s most high-impact developmental ambitions:
”Driving strategic and financial investment into Nigeria’s real-sector transformation, and rightly positioning Nigeria as a major international supply-chain partner to leading global economies like the United States.”
According to the president, global supply chains are currently facing a challenging time as U.S. shippers have been under strain caused by reduced inputs from China and the growing backlog of European imports caused by the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
He added that the world had not fully recovered from the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and this had taught everyone the importance of having viable alternatives when ”traditional supply chains are unable to serve our needs.”
He said: ”The current global challenges are expected to continue into 2023 and beyond, but Nigeria is ready to fill a greater amount of global demand.
”We are leveraging on our skilled labour-force, strategic location, as well as production and manufacturing potential to move forward as a key trading partner to the United States.
”I have always held the strong conviction that there is no crisis without an accompanying opportunity and solution.
”Increased collaboration with Nigeria and other developing markets is needed to mitigate against both current and potential future supply-chain challenges.”
He expressed confidence that the situation in the world today presented an opportunity for real sector investment in Nigeria.
The president noted that since signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, Nigeria had strengthened its position as a gateway to an integrated continental market, consisting of 1.3 billion consumers with an aggregate GDP of $3.4 trillion.
Further, he stated that the administration had focused strongly on developing Nigeria’s manufacturing sector, and given the country’s enormous natural resources.
However, according to him, technological partnership is needed to transform this natural endowment into high value goods.
”To drive forward our manufacturing and production capacity, we have developed 17 operational Special Economic Zones with four more currently under construction.
”Fourteen of these are general economic zones which support export processing, large-scale manufacturing, warehousing, logistic services, tourism, food processing and packaging as well as technology development;
”The remaining three are dedicated to oil & gas related activities.
”We have furthermore commenced the development of three automotive Industrial Parks that encourage the local assembly of vehicles for the Pan-African market.”
Buhari also used the occasion to list fiscal investment incentives formulated to encourage increased private capital inflows into Nigeria.
They include: ”Three to five years of tax holidays for enterprises in what we deem pioneer industries;
”Tax-free operations and no restrictions on expatriate quotas in our Free Trade Zones; capital allowances for agriculture, manufacturing and engineering; and a VAT regime of 5 percent; among others.”
The president of the Republic of The Gambia, Adama Barrow was a Special Guest at the event.