Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government of Nigeria has explained the agriculture deal US President Donald Trump talked about at the April 30 meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Washington DC.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, while fielding questions from reporters on details of the deal at a post-Federal Executive Council meeting briefing, said that the US was complaining about the trade barriers against its agricultural products entering the Nigerian market despite the support Nigeria was receiving in the fight against insecurity and other matters.
Criticisms have trailed the recent trade agreement between Nigeria and the United States, especially in the agriculture sector.
Buhari had said, “Nigeria’s trade volume with the United States stood at $6.07 billion, according to 2016 statistics and comprised $4.176 billion worth of Nigerian exports to the U.S. and $1.894 billion US exports to Nigeria. We urged greater effort to increase these figures substantially.”
Furthermore, he said Nigeria very much welcomed increased US investment in the Nigerian economy, especially in the non-oil sector.
Trump pointed out that Nigeria has protectionist policies in place against the United States, and said both countries are working together on “taking down” the trade barriers
“We give Nigeria well over $1 billion in trade every year, and we have already started talking with the President [Buhari] about taking down the trade barriers; very substantial barriers to the United States trade,” Trump had said.
Trump had added that Nigeria was interested in agricultural products from the United States, stating that plans are in place to allow export of US farm produce to Nigeria — for the good of US farmers, Nigeria, and Africa.
But Onyeama, who described Buhari as one of the strongest brand that the country has, said the President was extremely focused on Nigeria’s interest during that visit.
According to him, “With regards to President Trump and the agriculture question, the Secretary of Commerce of the US read the report of the US trade representative and, as you know, the US trade representative issues reports on the trade practices and how those impact on the US and countries around the world.
“The report that he read out indicated that there were a number of trade barriers that US agricultural products face to enter the Nigerian market. President Trump was of the view that, considering the level of cooperation and assistance the US provides to Nigeria, that we should do much more to remove those barriers.
“We made a point in that context also that the framework of the African Growth and Opportunities Act, that Nigerian agriculture products also face some barriers entering the US market, especially phynosanitary barriers, the standards of those agricultural products. So, obviously work also needs to be done to address those and to provide greater market access for our agricultural products.
“So, that was essentially the situation and the idea of the agreement is that there will be follow up at the technical level to review these issues. And, as you know, we have an institutional mechanism that is supposed to be meeting this year, a bi-national commission which is quite comprehensive; the US and Nigeria, we meet once every year to look at all the different sectors and our cooperations in framework of those sectors,” the Foreign Minister explained.