President Muhammed Buhari has said that for the country growth, greater UK engagement in its economy would bring jobs to under-tapped sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.
Speaking on new case for a Commonwealth based on trade in United Kingdom, adding that millions of highly skilled, English-speaking but underemployed young people, are eager to work but without the opportunities that foreign investment can bring to create jobs and build businesses.
He said a new free trade agreement would reconfigure this, presenting new opportunities for both. “As the largest economy in Africa, my country of nearly 200 million people has a great deal to offer, Nigeria’s vast natural energy and mineral resources, unbarred through the ending of customs barriers, could help supply growth for companies in all corners of the UK. Greater access would also be forthcoming to one of the world’s fastest expanding groups of consumers, the Nigerian middle classes.
He added that relations between Nigeria and UK are close and longstanding. “Most recently reiterated in our 2018 bi-lateral security pact and our collaboration in anti-trafficking. But in recent years, our relationship particularly economically has become increasingly defined by Britain’s membership of the European Union.
However, he said to be realistic, the commonwealth will not suddenly become a multilateral-free trade zone. “Today many members reside within regional free trade and customs zones of their own. Yet without any of us needing to relinquish these ties, we can work together to minimise, consistent with respective memberships as far as possible many of the tariffs and barriers on commodities, products and services.
“Because member countries’ national laws are built on the principles of English jurisprudence, we might work together from this common platform to better align regulations on investment, certification and trade.
A renewed sense of Commonwealth solidarity would also be of enormous benefit to the large and vital diasporas – particularly from Africa and the Indian subcontinent – that live in Western Commonwealth countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia.
He said time will tell if Britain’s new ability to strike free trade deals directly with other countries once it departs the EU can be built into more than bilateral economic cooperation. “But there is no reason why, collectively, we should not try. Nor should we dismiss the potential for making the Commonwealth of Nations more than a voluntary organization of equals based on a shared history that it is today.
“Instead it is in all our people’s interests to labour, dispassionately, to increase our focus on lowering barriers to achieving what truly brings freedom, friendship and equality: prosperity through trade. Yet there is also a case to be made that our two Commonwealth countries should try, with other members, to deliver more collectively.
“In 2015, I became the first head of a new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council tasked with boosting trade and investment within the wider organisation. Now with the United Kingdom the Commonwealth’s largest economy – no longer obliged to ring-fence its economy with tariffs, this mission will be given a jolt of vitality.