Counsellor and Head of Trade and Economics of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Fillippo Amato, has said trade between Nigeria and European Union (EU) member states stood at 19.9 billion Euros in 2016,
Besides, Amato stressed the need for the Nigerian government to expand its tax base in order to diversify its revenue.
He disclosed this at a press conference to announce its sixth edition of the EU-Nigeria Business Forum slated for October 5 to 6 in Lagos.
According to him, the EU remains the top destination for oil and non-oil exports from Nigeria.
"Despite the significant effect of the recession on Nigeria's trade, EU-Nigeria trade remains strong, standing at 19.9 billion Euros in 2016," he said.
He noted that the success of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) launched by Nigeria in February 2017 depended on active private sector participation, which calls for effective confidence building to attract investors.
"On the other hand, creating jobs that will stimulate the economy and provide sustainable employment, particularly for young people, is crucial both for the present and future of Nigeria," the EU envoy said.
Amato said the forthcoming EU-Nigeria Business Forum, which had the theme: "Youth as an Engine of Broad-Based Economic Transformation" would focus on the role of youths in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Agriculture, which were key sectors to support the growth and diversification of the Nigeria economy.
The envoy said that it would also give business leaders and policy makers from EU and Nigeria a platform to explore business openings and how to increase investment.
"The forum will identify the key role of youths in the digital economy and potentials of ICT in cross-cutting themes and experiences shared from the EU.
"It will strengthen EU and Nigeria's business relations through identification of opportunities in the agribusiness space in creating jobs, boosting exports and addressing local food security problems."
"The forum would also identify aspirations of young people, youth organisations and networks in view of the upcoming Africa-EU Summit, he said.
He said EU has in the last 40 years been working towards the economic development of West African countries, adding that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the two regions was to further boost economic growth in the developing countries of West Africa.
He stated that the agreement will spur industrialization in West African countries; it will increase foreign direct investments into the countries thereby boosting their economy and tax base.
He however urged that the Nigerian government diversify its revenue base as the implementation of the agreement is bound to cut back the revenue from import tariffs.
Under the EPA, West African countries' exports are granted duty free access to the EU while in turn they reduce duties on 75 per cent of EU imports over a transition period of 20 years.
According to him, the Nigerian economy is already diversified as the GDP of the country shows that oil which is the major revenue earner for the government contributes less than 20 per cent of the GDP.
"The Nigerian economy is already diversified. What needs to be diversifies is the exports of the country which is dominated by oil. Secondly, government needs to diversify its source of revenue by expanding its tax base," Amato added.