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Belgium seeks improved trade ties with Nigeria




Belgium has called for an improved business and trade ties with Nigeria.

This, according to the country would help cement the long-standing relationship between the two countries.

According to the Nigerian-Belgian Chamber of Commerce (NB) and the Nigerian-Belgian Commercial Information and Documentation Centre (NBCIDC), at a breakfast meeting, in Lagos, complimenting the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration, requires new economic initiative to diversify the economy and to strengthen Nigeria ties with European Union (EU).

At the meeting, which had its theme as “Why Do Business with Europe”, stakeholders also discussed how the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) can be used by Nigerians to achieve increase exportation of non-fuel products to the EU.

The Ambassador of Belgium, Stephane De Loecker at the event, frowned at the situation that existed in 2013, and 2014, where Nigeria exported crude oil of low value-added worth $100 million and imported $1.2 billion of various refined oil products from Belgium.

He said his country gained 12 times more forex than Nigeria noting that while this may be good for Belgium, it was not good for Nigeria.

De Loecker said Belgium support Nigeria current drive to diversify the economy and is ready to help improve trade between the two countries. He said as a friend, Belgium was more interested in Nigeria improving its refining capacity which he noted will help save a lot of forex and open new market opportunities.

He therefore, advocated for a more open economy as he maintained that it does encourage innovation by eschewing protectionist policies adding that innovation is critical in accessing new markets.

He posited that an open economy is the most favorable to consumers noting that by encouraging competition among producers and distributors, prices are brought down to the benefit of the average citizen.

“That’s what made Belgium wealthy, and is what will also make Nigeria wealthy if it refrains from protectionist measures”, he said.

In her presentation, Trade and Economic Affairs Manager for West Africa, Ms Cristina Modoran, stated that Nigerians have not availed themselves much of the available opportunities to do business with Europe.

She revealed that oil made up of 90 per cent of the country export to Europe.

She also added that opportunities abound in agribusiness, which Nigerians can tap into. The agribusiness export to Europe she said is presently worth about N3.5 trillion.

According to her, the EPA can be the key to Economic diversification, integration to global trade, economic governance and investment.

She explained that EPA stands for a long-term bilateral preferential agreement between Nigeria and EU, which includes differentiated market opening, flexible rules of origin and cumulation of origin. She added that they also consist of large safeguards to protect sensitive sectors and financial, technical support to help meeting EU standards.

Explaining further, Modoran said the EPA works by facilitating 100 per cent immediate market opening for products from West Africa and 75 per cent gradual market opening over a 20 year period for product from EU.

According to her, a special EPA Development Programme of 6.5 billion Euro (about #1.4Trillion) will provide funding for project a linked to trade, industry, energy, and transport infrastructure in the West Africa region, institutional reforms and capacity building of relevant stakeholders.

Modoran said the benefits for Nigerian business, will be in the area of export duty-free, quota-free to the EU from day one adding that Nigerians will benefit from lower import prices.

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