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China-Africa Trade Prospects Look Promising
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Close, high-level ties between China and African countries, and enthusiasm shown by Chinese firms, has improved the prospects for trade between the two sides.

Bilateral trade and economic cooperation has entered a new phase of all-round, rapid and stable growth since the China-Africa Forum was set up in 2000, according an official from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

China now imported more goods and service from African countries than it has exported to them, he said.

Improved political stability on the African continent and the political will to enhance the relationship between Africa and China has resulted in strengthened economic and trade ties, he added.

The comments come as President Hu Jintao takes part in a week-long tour of Africa his second visit to the continent since becoming State leader three years ago.

The trip includes visits to Morocco, Kenya and Nigeria.

"The president's visit this time will be another big push for trade," said the official, who declined to be named.

Bilateral trade between China and Africa has surged to reach nearly US$40 billion last year from US$10 billion at the turn of the century.

Since the beginning of 2005, China has begun scrapping tariffs on 190 kinds of imported goods from 28 of the least developed African countries with which it has diplomatic relations.

This is the result of work completed by the China-Africa Forum.

Imports under these tax items added up to US$380 million last year, an increase of 87 percent year on year, according to customs statistics.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Government is encouraging Chinese companies to invest and set up joint ventures in Africa, the official said.

By the end of 2005, the accumulated investment from China to Africa had reached US$1.25 billion.

China has signed investment promotion and protection agreements with 28 different countries and set up 98 enterprises on the continent.

Xu Changwen, head of the Asian and African studies department of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Co-operation, said the prospects were promising.

This was particularly so in the fields of agriculture, light industry, machinery, infrastructure construction, information technology and tourism, he said.

China is advanced in agricultural technology, seed cultivation, oil exploration and has relatively cheap and durable light industry products and machinery, Xu said.

He added this could meet the needs of many African countries.

Chinese enterprises also have sharpened their competitive edge in road and railway building, communication systems, irrigation works and energy generation, he said.

Chinese textiles and clothing firms are also investing heavily in Africa at the moment as a way to get around US and European Union limits on Chinese exports in this sector.

Chu Shuntang, an official from the China-Africa Private Chamber of Commerce, said businessmen on a recent trip to Africa had been greatly impressed by the opportunities there.

During the 20-day visit, they gained more understanding of the investment environment, and received economic and trade information about selected projects.

The impression they got is that economic development in many African countries is the same as it was in China two decades ago, Chu said.

The businessmen believe investing early will help them reap good profits later on.

"To invest and set up factories in Africa will be better than simply conducting trade," he said.

(China Daily April 26, 2006)

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