With a variety of economic and diplomatic ties linking it with superpowers both old and new, Nigeria has long been a prominent player in both the continental and global arena. While simultaneously pursuing a leadership role on a variety of cooperative initiatives with its West African neighbours, the country’s diplomatic efforts internationally have also largely succeeded in garnering support from foreign partners for social and economic development initiatives – and particularly recently – security efforts. The fight against Boko Haram has been a key topic in the Cabinet’s foreign policy discussions, as has the solicitation of overseas support to help stave off further economic recession.
Relations With The Us
The US is one of Nigeria’s most important international partners, a fact that was underscored by President Muhammadu Buhari’s visiting the US within eight weeks of taking office and returning twice again during the first year of his term. Security cooperation is part of the countries’ shared policy agreement, as underlined by the regular meetings of the US-Nigeria Binational Commission, established in 2010. President Buhari’s anti-corruption credentials and diplomatic efforts paid dividends, as the US government agreed to sell 12 attack aircraft and donate $5m to help Nigerian security forces fight Boko Haram.
The election of Donald Trump as US president raised some doubts around the continuity of closer US-Nigeria relations, as an unclassified document from the Trump team to the State Department in January 2017 questioned the utility of US security support in the fight against Boko Haram. However, fears of a policy shift have proven unfounded, as a phone call between presidents Trump and Buhari in February 2017 reportedly underlined the “strong partnership” between the two countries and saw Trump reiterate his support for US security assistance in Nigeria. Ground support in the battle against Boko Haram has continued, with US military personnel reported to be training members of the Nigerian security forces as recently as March 2017.
The US is also one the largest contributors of foreign direct investment in Nigeria through investments mainly in petroleum, mining and wholesale trade. A bilateral trade and investment framework agreement is in place between the two countries. US exports to Nigeria include wheat, vehicles, machinery and kerosene, while US imports from Nigeria include crude oil, cocoa, cashew nuts and animal feed.
Nigeria also maintains close relations with the EU. The EU is the country’s largest foreign trade partner, while Nigeria ranks as the EU’s second-largest trade partner in sub-Saharan Africa. Trade between Nigeria and the EU amounted to €19.9bn in 2016, according to the EU’s directorate-general for trade.
There is scope for those volumes to increase significantly, although Nigeria’s refusal to sign the EU’s proposed economic partnership agreement, which seeks to implement free trade between the EU, ECOWAS and Mauritania, has proven something of a sticking point. Of the ECOWAS countries, only Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire have yet to sign the deal, along with Mauritania. Although the Nigerian government has continued to resist the agreement, arguing that its terms disproportionately favour the EU, in July 2017 the EU’s ambassador to Nigeria reiterated his hope that Nigeria would sign.
Beyond economic ties, the EU has also contributed significantly to social and humanitarian efforts. The European Commission’s humanitarian office has provided more than €124m in assistance to Nigeria since 2014, for example. The aid has been primarily intended to cover the basic needs of the large number of people who have been internally displaced by conflict in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Nigeria has strong ties to China thanks to several decades of strong diplomatic and cultural bridge-building. Local perceptions of the Asian superpower are very positive, and a trip to China by President Buhari in April 2016 yielded a loan of $6bn, with the funds designated for the development of infrastructure.
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