He disclosed this Friday at the Nigeria-China Business Forum, organised by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, in Beijing.
He said the trade between the two countries account for nearly one third of the trade between China and West Africa, adding that it will continue to grow bigger, indicating the importance of Nigeria to China in the regional market.
Jonathan said that it was in recognition of the strategic trade link between the two countries, that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, recently converted some portions of Nigeria’s foreign reserves from the United States Dollars, to the Chinese Yuan.
Beyond trade, the President said that China has been instrumental to supporting Nigeria with financial arrangements and investment in strategic infrastructural projects, such as rail, road and free trade zones, among others.
Consequently, he said Nigeria is presently strengthening its investment and economic ties with China because of the latter’s’ involvement in the financing and construction of key infrastructural projects in Nigeria.
Besides, he said the persistent increase in the bilateral trade volume between the two countries within the last few years, has made it imperative for the duo to amplify their relationships.
Emphasising that Nigeria and China are the two largest economies in their respective regions; the President said that since Nigeria and China started diplomatic relations, the bilateral relations between the two countries have continued to wax stronger as the years progressed.
Jonathan said that the nine Memorandum of Understanding, MoUs, signed between Chinese and Nigerian companies, would lead to stronger economic ties between the two countries.
Maintaining that Nigeria’s current robust, stable macro-economic environment had strategically positioned it as the preferred investment destination in Africa and globally, he said the country is currently the preferred destination for Chinese companies in Africa.
He said: “Our tax policies are quite robust and the business environment we have in Nigeria is exceptional. I want to specially commend the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for the spectacular work done in putting together such a wonderful and world class event. I also want to thank investors for their interest in Nigeria, which is now the number one investment destination in Africa.”
Earlier, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, OlusegunAganga, said one of the major achievements of the forum was the huge commitment by Chinese investors in terms of investing in key sectors of the Nigerian economy. For example, he noted that the largest coal to power company in China is interested in coming to invest in Nigeria.
”Also, many big companies who are into power generation and transmission have indicated their interest in investing in Nigeria. In addition to these, we have held discussions with China Development Bank in the area of Small and Medium development. In fact, the momentum is very high in terms of investors’ interest in Nigeria,” he added.
The event, which had over 300 Chinese investors, culminated in the signing nine MoUs between Chinese investors, Bauchi State Government and private investors respectively.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan said Thursday in Beijing that the increasing exploitation and utilisation of shale gas and other alternative sources of energy by the United States and other advanced nations of the world has made it more urgent for Nigeria to move faster towards the diversification of its economy.
Speaking in an interview with China Television, President Jonathan said that the increasing utilisation of alternative sources of energy was a matter of concern for Nigeria and other oil exporting nations.
“That is why we have to increase the pace of diversifying our economy and moving our country away from dependence on the oil and gas industry.
“We must work towards greater industrialisation, add more value to our agricultural products, develop our solid minerals potentials and other sectors of our economy before the time comes when crude oil may no longer be dominant as a global source of energy,” the President said.
At a meeting with the Nigerian community in China, President Jonathan commended the National Assembly for its ongoing process of expanding the coverage of the Local Content Act to sectors other than oil and gas, saying that the move will further stimulate domestic industrialisation and contribute significantly to the desired diversification of Nigeria’s economy.
Responding to concerns raised by a member of the community about Nigerian professionals having to compete with expatriates from China and other countries for employment opportunities in Nigeria, the President said that Nigeria’s immigration laws and expatriate quotas provide adequate protection for Nigerian workers.
– Ayodele Aminu, The Nation