The Market Square and Nigerian Traders' Drum Beat of War

For some time now and predictably too, the two largest economies in the world, the United States of America and China have been engaged in a trade war.

Considering where the two were coming from, it is a war of attrition to which there may be no imminent end in sight.

In line with the principle of reciprocal action, Tariffs have been hiked on selected goods imported from one another.

In the middle of that too, the US government under Donald Trump has called on American companies to seek an alternative to the products and services offered by the Chinese tech giant, Huawei because according to her it is suspected of being Beijing's Trojan horse. A possibility of which Huawei's hierarchy has vehemently dismissed.

Though industry experts in the US have warned of dire consequences if the order is implemented; and as well-advised the government to tread cautiously on the matter, it appears the Trump's administration is adamant.

The closest thing, however, to retaliatory action by Huawei is a statement it puts out warning that America should not underestimate its capabilities to hurt it too. That, certainly, is a statement pregnant with a lot of meanings.

Clearly, the two nations are sufficiently cushioned and can, therefore, afford to throw around their oversize weight indiscriminately and may not feel the negative effects of that both in the short or long term.

But the same thing cannot be said of smaller economies around the world, who as we speak, are already feeling its negative impacts.

What is the real cause of China and US trade rift? China, arguably the most rampant of the Asian Tigers has been tipped by economic experts to upstage the United States as the number one economy in the world in a little over two decades from now. Experts are in agreement it is looking more like it.

And for an economy like hers which took off from the tumultuous block of a cultural revolution of 1949, went through the uncertainties of the '60s, nothing is closer to a miracle.

How it pulled the chestnut of its audacious economic projections out of the fire is still a subject of intense academic studies in universities around the world.

At the same time, what it would also look like if she becomes the largest economy in the world is still being speculated upon.

Of course, the scary prospects of the US getting displaced as the global watchdog and economic Numero uno are enough reasons to arouse the jealousy and send jitters down the spine of Washington who has enjoyed complete global dominance in trade and diplomacy for close to eighty years.
But then, history has taught that empire comes and goes. The modus operandi is of little or no significance.

The only conclusion we can draw from the ongoing trade tit-for-tat between the two economic superpowers is that the vanquish predicted will not go down without a fight; while continuing to fancy her chances, the victor predicted too will not rest on its oars.

Now let's come to Nigeria. Just last week or so, the news broke of a brewing rift or should I call it perceived dissatisfaction of some Nigerian traders under the auspices of Nigerian Traders Association (NTA), over what they termed influx of Chinese traders into not only the Nigerian economy but the Nigerian marketplaces.

And in the process (to use their exact word) disenfranchising the Nigerian traders.

The statement concluded by saying: "If the relevant authorities, especially, the ministry of trade and industry do not interfere, they may be forced to take the law into their hands".

Yes, while I may not completely dismiss their concerns, however, there are begging questions in the statement put out by the body. Again, things must be put in their proper perspective.

Lest we forget, the world is now a global village. Which by implication means no country no matter its level of developments, economic advantages or disadvantages is completely self-sufficient and indeed is duty-bound to trade with others.

First of all, I stand to be corrected, I don't think there is a policy of a Nigerian government ever that says Chinese traders, to put it narrowly, should not come into Nigeria to do their legitimate business.

And to put it broadly too, it is a policy of successive Nigerian governments that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) should be deliberately courted for economic growth and jobs provision four our teeming youths.

In this wise, it is on record that China's role as a partner for Africa nay Nigeria's economic development has been on the significant rise of late.

Available records show that as of 2018, it has contributed around $60billion in loans, grants, and development financing, attracting a single digit or no interest at all, to several African countries.

Needless to say that Nigeria is a major beneficiary. One head of government after another, especially, since the nation's return to democratic rule in 2019 has visited Beijing seeking collaborations of different kinds.

And so they are here in their numbers more than it used to be. I cannot count on my fingers projects from rail, roads, power project at different phases of completion being undertaking by various Chinese construction companies which of course are bankrolled by the Chinese government.

Therefore, it is only normal to see Chinese businesses or traders if you like operating in different sectors of the Nigerian economy. Is that imperialistic? I don't think so. If they are, they would be interfering like America and the British do with the operations of the internal politics of their allies.

However, I'm not unaware of the negative perception this has attracted in the west, especially the US, which may not be unconnected with the fact of their existing rivalry with the Chinese.

It would amount to sheer hypocrisy for Nigeria and Nigerians to ask for something and the thing arrives in droves and you now begin to complain that it is surplus to requirement.

The Chinese in question didn't get here by wishful thinking. They must have applied for a valid visa at the Nigeria Consulate in Beijing or wherever stating clearly what their mission would be in the country.

If they are here illegally, then, it is a different ball game altogether. But as it is, nothing suggests the group of Chinese who constitute themselves as traders belong in this category.

And when you talk of disenfranchising, it means, if my understanding of the term (used more in relation to electoral process than business) is correct that they are preventing the Nigerian traders from going about their legitimates business activities. That's their free entry and free exit of the marketplaces is being circumvented. Which I can bet is not the case.

Come to think of it, did the Chinese traders not import their wares too? Did they not rent, or as the case may be, build their warehouses, hire workers to function in the system? Because the complaint makes it look as if the Chinese traders are not incurring any cost in their line of trade.

Therefore, factors of production considered, the Nigerian trader who goes to China to procure and import his goods and services will necessarily incur the same capital outlay and the profit margin available to each would be down to the willingness to sell at a fraction of profit. But where greed is at work, which I strongly suspect, that will be difficult.

Perhaps, the belief of the Nigerians who are members of Trade's Association is that an average Chinese trader is getting some forms of supports from their home government which cannot be totally ruled out but they will still have to pay back though most likely without interest,

But if they source funds for their business from many of the available financial institutions whether in Nigeria or China it boils down to the same thing, being accountable to the loaner.

So, until one is sufficiently informed about the facts of the matter, it would amount to progressing in error to conclude anything. What I suspect here is a price war. And I won't presuppose that Chinese traders will deliberately be selling at a loss. In that scenario, who bears the brunt.

The threats of taking the laws into their own hands coming from the concerned Nigerian traders is definitely not an indication Nigeria and China is at war or would be at a trade war any time soon.

What it means is that there is an ill-conceived discontentment from a group whose members would prefer a situation whereby Chinese traders will be barred from the open market or even deported which to say the least is unrealistic.

I'm not justifying any wrongs the Chinese may be perpetrating but the thorough investigation must be carried out to ascertain the true state of the matter.

Otherwise, price realignment may not be completely out of the card if Nigerians traders and their Chinese counterparts can be able to reach a common ground. But that will also depend on the disposition of the Chinese traders to going into any form of collaborations with their Nigerian traders. If not, wisdom should prevail and not the drumbeat of war currently being sounded out by the aggrieved Nigerian traders.

The marketplace is like the proverbial skies, they are wide enough and can accommodate all shades of people regardless of their countries of origin and business interests provided no party is making crude efforts to restricts free entry and free exit of the market.

While I'm not so sure the trade and industry ministry or any other government agencies would be able to come up with a solution that may likely address the issues to the advantage of Nigerian traders because of the non-clarity of their demand. I, however, hope caution is not thrown to the wind.

Doing so will automatically mean we've decided to walk down the same obnoxious path of xenophobic attack which we are condemning South Africans for. This may pitch us against China who by all means are stronger and have the capacities to deal us more decisive blows economically and otherwise.

Our saving grace, however, is the fact that China does not have the history of aggressive behaviors against its allies, especially, those from Africa because they feel what we are going through as a people and a continent which explains why they have been forthcoming over time with interventional financial solutions tailored to our needs. Cynics may disagree. It is their choice.

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