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This paper examined the impact of the new wave of trade openness on the Nigerian automotive industries. We observed that states who adopt trade liberalization policy are required to first of articulate and put in place a sound trade management framework that will serve as both external trade defense mechanism and internal stimulator for industrial global competitiveness, without which their economies will remain a dumping ground for more proactive and industrialized countries. Aside the indigenous auto component firms that recorded a significant growth in investments, production output and technical innovation in spite of the deplorable infrastructures and poor government incentives, we found out that trade liberalization policy implemented in Nigeria in the last decade did not stimulate growth of the automotive sector as witnessed in the Newly Industrialized Countries like China, Malaysia, Brazil, India and South Africa, as its evident that the auto TNCs have either shut down completely or closed most of their production lines. Contrary to the position of most studies that a shift from economic protectionism to free trade will eventually lead to the eclipse of the local industries, we strongly argue that the missing link in the Nigerian trade reform programme is the government poor management of our intereconomic relations and without addressing this inhibiting factor, there cannot be an economic turnaround in Nigeria, even if the government reverts to protectionism. Our study anchored its analysis on the theory of collective interconnectedness and generated data from secondary source and used the qualitative descriptive technique as our method of data analysis. This research focused on providing empirical evidences that satisfactorily answered the following research
questions: (a) Did the Nigerian trade liberalization policy implemented between 2000 & 2011 stimulate the growth of the automotive sector? (b) Is there adequate government intervention on the manufacturing structure under the open trade regime (between 2000 and 2011) to promote the global competitiveness of the Nigerian automotive industries? We strongly affirm that unless government resist the pervasive political corruption and hastily and sincerely invested the huge petro-dollar to put in place an adequate infrastructural base, sustained raw material production, pragmatic human capital training, flourishing R&D, and viable sectoral interlink, the Nigerian vision of becoming a Newly Industrialized Country by 2020, in the new era of free trade, remains a mirage.
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