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Speech by Consul-General Dr. Liu Xianfa at the Opening Ceremony of the Eko Expo 2012 and Lekki Investment Forum

(August 3rd, 2012, Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos)

Your Excellency, Lagos State Executive Governor, Mr. Fashola,

Your Honorable, Minister for Trade and Investment, Mr. Aganga,

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!

It is my great pleasure to attend this opening ceremony for Lekki Free Trade Zone investment Forum and Eko expo 2012. I would like to congratulate the organizators of these events on this ceremony, and welcome all the distinguished guests.

Your Excellency, Mr. Governor, I’m honored to meet you again here in Lekki Free Trade Zone. Today, I can’t help but call on your affective speech during the state banquet celebrating the 45th anniversary of Lagos State, in which you showcased magnificent blueprint for this great state. I also remember Your Excellency’s warm welcome for my arrival in Lagos, when you mentioned your expectations and requirements to attract more Chinese investments in four major aspects: power, agriculture, transportation and housing. I believe that the Lekki Free Zone will play the pioneering role in contributing more to Your Excellency’s Mega-city Plan.

Ladies and gentlemen:

As someone who has witnessed how the economic development zones has contributed to China’s economy and improvement of the living standard of Chinese people, and especially as a veteran petrol-chemical catalysts researcher, I can’t agree more with the Honorable Minister for Trade and Investment’s point of view of making the free zone a catalyst for the Nigerian economy.

As we all know, after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, especially since the Reform and Opening-up Policy in 1978, great changes have taken place all over my ancient land. In 2010, China has become the second largest economy in the world. In 2011, China’s GDP rose to 7.497 trillion US dollars, 34.6 times larger than 1978. Thousands of Millions of diligent Chinese people are now enjoying happy lives that they could not ever dreamed of.

Nowadays, many foreign politicians, scholars, and entrepreneurs including African friends are trying to find out the secret of China’s economic taking-off, and have made several explanations from different aspects. Many international experts believe that the major reasons are: the Chinese government’s strong ability to mobilize the whole society, the reforms and improvements of the economic and political systems, the wise opening-up policy that keeps pace with times, the fast improvement of qualification of the labor force and their lasting contributions..

Now when reviewing the past 30 years of fast economic and social development, we Chinese people all agree that economic development zones is one of the most important engines of China’s economic taking-off.

In 1980, the Chinese Government decided to set up 4 special economic zones along the South-east coast line, including Shenzhen, with preferential policies, efficient management systems; These special economic zones aiming at attracting foreign direct investment, increasing production for both substituting products import and export. Since 1984, economic and technological development zones were established in the suburbs of major cities, enjoying similar preferential policies of special economic zones. Later on after 1988, the economic development zones entered a new stage: high-tech industry zones, bounded areas (free trade zone), and comprehensive development zones like Shanghai Pudong, Suzhou Industrial Zone, and Tianjin Coastal New Zone began to be founded.

Up to now, there are 131 national, 776 provincial, and more than 1000 county-level Economic and Technological Development zones in China. Development zones have promoted economy growth, increased the government revenue. In 2010, these zones contribute 22% of China’s GDP. The percentage of fiscal revenue is even higher. They attracted 53 percent’s foreign invest in China. Most of the zones have become good examples of economic growth catalyst, high technology incubators, and social development model areas.

Why are China’s economic zones so successful? Researchers and scholars believe it’s because of 5 major driving forces:

No.1. The preferential fiscal policy and efficient service brought by central and local governments.

No.2. The external force brought by multinational corporations who organize and operate worldwide.

No.3. The market force brought by optimized factors of production and improvement of infrastructure.

No.4. The innovative force brought by high technology and advanced management skills.

No.5. The profound Chinese culture force characterized by harmonious spirits.

Now, let’s turn our eyes back to Nigeria. Here we are happy to see that during the course of Nigeria’s economic development the Federal and State Governments paid a lot of attention to free trade zones and other economic development zones. The NEPZA Act has been successfully implemented for years. Under the strong leadership of NEPZA, the 35 plus free trade zones have made outstanding achievements and accumulated many experiences. Because the Lekki Free Zone is one of the most important cooperation project between China and Nigeria, the Chinese Government has been paying high attention and giving full support to it. I hope that both sides can take advantage of this good platform to enhance communication, learn more from each other, and perform together, to build the Lekki Free Zone into a new milestone of China-Nigeria strategic partnership.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

China is the world's largest developing country, and Africa is home to the largest number of developing countries in the world. Thus, the mutual beneficial cooperation between us is of great importance. During the past 50 years, especially after the founding of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China and Africa have established a new type of strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, win-win economic cooperation and cultural exchanges, and tremendous Achievements have been made under this partnership.

In the investment and trading cooperation areas, the bilateral trade volume between China and Africa has risen from about 10 billion US dollars in 2000 to 166.3 billion in 2011. By June 2012, China had invested 45 billion US dollars in Africa, including over 15 billion US dollars of direct investment. Over 2,000 Chinese companies of different types are operating in African countries, promote the local economy development, and provide thousands of employment opportunities for local people.

Just two weeks ago, the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was held in Beijing. His Excellency President Hu Jintao announced that China will take important measures in five priority areas, including expanding cooperation in investment and financing, to support the cause of peace and development in Africa. It is sure that these measures will take the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to a new high, and bring concrete benefits to millions of African friends.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As two great nations with the largest population in the world, and in the Africa continent respectively, China and Nigeria have made great progress in deepening bilateral relations and promoting mutual cooperation. The bilateral trade volume reached to 10.8 billion US dollars in 2011, and 5.1 billion US dollars during the first half of this year with a steady increase. At the end of this June, Chinese investments in Nigeria has amounted to 8.8 billion US dollars. The construction of Lekki Free Trade Zone and Guangdong-Ogun Free Trade Zone is under steady progress. The financial cooperation between us is fast-developing: Nigeria has become the first African country who uses Renminbi as her foreign exchange reserve and trade-settlement currency. This definitely provides a more favored condition to the enlargement of bilateral investment and trade cooperation.

I’ve just learned that there is an African proverb which says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." As one of the important achievements of the 3rd Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Lekki Free Trade Zone is a very important project that carries the important mission of promoting our bilateral cooperation, from project level to mechanism level. I believe that with the strong support of Chinese and Nigerian Governments, with the close cooperation between the China-Africa Lekki Invest Company and Lagos State Government, with the deep friendship between CCECC and local people, Lekki Free Trade Zone will definitely achieve its development goals, and enjoy a even brighter future as well!

Finally, I wish this Investment Forum and the Eko EXPO a big success!

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