How US-China Trade ‘War’ Will Affect Nigeria  

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By Obinna Chima in Washington DC

The Director General of West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), Professor Akpan Ekpo has said ongoing trade tension between the United States and China, if allowed to continue, would affect Nigeria negatively.

The WAIFEM boss said this in an interview with THISDAY, on the sideline of the ongoing World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

The US recently announced a range of tariffs on Chinese goods, claiming that China was stealing US Intellectual property. Thereafter, China responded with its own tariffs on US goods within hours. The moves followed US tariffs that were imposed earlier this year on Chinese steel and aluminium, which also prompted a response from China.

But speaking on the development, Ekpo said it clearly has implication for trade in Nigeria.

He explained: “We know that our major export is oil and we import almost everything from China. So, if Chinese had to pay more to trade with the US, they will pass it on to us.

“So, Chinese goods in Nigeria may also go up and may result into what we partly call imported inflation.”

Owing to this, Ekpo said there was need for the federal government to continue to push for the diversification of the economy.

He added: “We must industrialise to fight what is happening between the US and China. We cannot continue to depend on the export of crude oil.

“We import virtually everything and don’t add value to anything.  Granted we don’t have to manufacture the entire things we need, we can add value to some of our produce.

“So, from what is happening between the US and China, we should start to strategise on how to deal with this matter because Donald Trump is taking it very serious and same thing with China.”

According to the WAIFEM boss, what the US president did in terms of the trade tension “was to challenge liberalism.”

“For him, there is no longer free trade. Each nation should determine its own fate. But nobody wins a trade war. And no US President has done negotiation without putting the US first. When you are negotiating a trade deal, you must put your country first.

“But in my view, Trump has taken on a wrong country by challenging China, which is an emerging world power – if not world power.

“Most of the important Chinese imports like vehicles, come from the US; so, the US will not win that war and China too will not win the war,” he added.

Responding to a question on the fact that Nigeria opted out of the recently signed Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by some African political leaders, Ekpo said.

“The CFTA, to me, I had thought that by the time Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved it, they had done wide consultation.

“So, I think President Muhammadu Buhari is not saying he will not be part of it. I think, he is playing to the fact that the labour leaders and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) said they were not consulted.

“So, he wants to hear their views. But, let me tell you, the African leaders are jokers. They have signed many of those things and it never translated into anything.

“But if it is done successfully, it will be a large market to negotiate with rest of the world. What Nigeria should have done was what South Africa did – attend the signing ceremony, support them, but you won’t sign.

“As Africa’s largest economy, you should have supported and then go back and sign the main document.”

He explained further: “But I suspect that going forward, there may be a way out of It because Nigeria is planning to have the headquarters, which should have created a lot of jobs for our people.

“So, let them consult properly and let MAN tell the government what it wants because you have to put down conditions.

“That is what China does. China dictates what it wants to the world.”