DG, SON, Joseph Odumodu
By Crusoe Osagie
Efforts to harmonise trade relations between the Peoples’ Republic of China and Nigeria during a recent visit of the Director General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) Dr. Joseph Odumodu, to China may have failed.
Against a background of the influx of substandard products largely from the Asian region into Nigeria, the meeting was held specifically to draft an agreement to ensure that only quality products are imported into Nigeria from China failed to achieve set objectives, THISDAY learnt.
Odumodu led the Nigerian delegation, while Director-General of the administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China Mr. Wang Xin, led the Chinese.
THISDAY gathered that the meeting was marked by initial optimism on both sides, given some of the conclusions reached. These included that products which do not meet the standards for export qualities are identified, and their further exports stopped; and if the manufacturers are found to have violated the law, they would be punished according to the laws of china.
Part of the early concession included that the Chinese Government would not charge any fees for its pre-inspection services, and that all products exported to Nigeria should comply with the Chinese and the NIS standards, and when products arrive Nigeria and are found to be without CIQ certificates and are substandard, then the importers should be treated according to the laws of Nigeria.
There were, however, other contentious issues, which led to a deadlocked meeting. First was the issue of country of sales, through which the Nigerian team, represented by a delegation from the SON demanded that products not fit to be sold in China should not be imported into Nigeria.
The Nigerian delegation also requested that products found wanting on arrival to Nigeria be quarantined, investigated by both parties and if found wanting repatriated to the country of origin, and also rejection of the demand by China to charge 1.5 per cent for every one thousand product, destined for Nigeria.
The draft agreement, which has been on the drawing board, was to be finalised to ensure that it stands the test of time and benefit both parties. SON and its Chinese counterpart, which represent both countries, sat for hours and days, working on the agreement to finalise it but to no avail.
The Director-General of SON in his opening address, had said that the issues of products quality and standards are serious such that both countries should be willing to dispassionately discuss and make concessions where necessary. He said the issue of substandard products from China has come a long way and would no longer be swept under the carpet.
According to Odumodu, the dumping of substandard products in Nigeria has resulted to loss of life, economic hardship, and environmental degradation, and that it should be stopped.
He emphasised that each time such products arrived Nigeria and is quarantined, it is the hard-earned money of Nigeria that goes down the drain, while the Chinese manufacturer benefits. He said currently, the trade was lopsided because China’s government does not suffer any losses.
The Chinese government delegation leader welcomed the Nigerian delegation, saying he hoped that the visit would lead to the signing of the agreement.
He said China was aware of Nigeria’s concern about substandard goods being exported into the Nigerian market, and the perception that the products come from China, thereby having a negative image for the eastern nation.
He said the Chinese government was committed to working with Nigeria to reducing the problem, but the way the meeting ended tends to point otherwise.
Observers see the matter as worrisome given the determination of the current dispensation to enhance local capacity utilisation create more jobs and attract more direct investments. If the incidence of influx of substandard products is not checked, then of course, the lofty ideal would remain a pipe dream