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China, S. Africa Consolidate Ties
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Eight years after China and South Africa forged diplomatic relations, the two leading developing countries now set to further boost the ties to spur mutual trade and investment, and to jointly push agenda of the developing world, especially Africa, in the international arena.


This emerges ahead of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to South Africa on Wednesday, part of his seven-nation tour to Africa


Wen, the first Chinese premier visiting South Africa since 1998, will hold talks with President Thabo Mbeki and other leading political figures on bilateral and international issues, meet local entrepreneurs and attend a forum on Sino-South African trade and investment during his two-day stay in Cape Town.


South Africa's Foreign Ministry has announced that during Wen's meeting with Mbkei, they would discuss and cosign an agreement on "deepening the strategic partnership" between the two countries.


"This symbolizes that both China and South Africa are keen to boost collaborative relations that has enjoyed smooth development since 1998," said Liu Guijin, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa.


Liu said the two countries first defined their relationship as a "partnership" in 2000, further agreed to upgrade it as "strategic partnership" in 2004.


"As important players in the developing world, China and South Africa hold similar views in key international issues, such as WTO (World Trade Organization) negotiations and market access," Liu said. "We need to cooperate more closely and in even broader areas."


South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad also said Wen's visit comes at a very important time "when we are trying to consolidate South-South cooperation which aims to increase market access, trade and investment."


"China shares similar positions with us with regard of the reform of global economic system, which is a key element in South Africa's multi-lateral agenda and China has potential to be effective in this regard," he said.


Both countries, together with Mexico and Brazil as leading developing countries, will attend a summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations in Russia next month.


The meeting between Wen and Mbeki will provide an opportunity for the two countries to prepare "a coherent 'South' approach" on issues to be discussed at the G8 summit, such as energy security, climate change, health and education, Pahad said.


They are also expected to discuss sluggish WTO negotiations since South Africa is chairing the G-20 bloc of developing countries that has continuously urged wealthy countries to tear down market barriers. China chaired the G-20 forum last year.


"In this regard, both South Africa and China have synergistic views on the reform and strengthening of the international trading and financial system," Pahad said.


Other topics will include reforms of the United Nations, nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula and in Iran, and progress of the one-year-old New Africa Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP), in which China plays active and vital roles, he said.


Mbeki will likely discuss with Wen on how China's increasing presence in Africa can help accelerate the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a pan-African program launched by Mbeki and other African leaders with aims to end poverty, corruption and bad governance on the continent to eventually realize "African Renaissance."


Wen has visited Egypt, Ghana, the Republic of Congo and Angola, and will go to Tanzania and Uganda.


His visit, less than two months after Chinese President Hu Jintao's African tour and ahead of a China-Africa summit later this year, is seen as the latest effort of Beijing to reinforce its traditional friendship and reciprocal cooperation with the continent.


Pahad said massive industrialization and economic growth of China, now the world's seventh-largest economy and among the fastest growing, "hold significant opportunities for regeneration of African continent because China's new Africa policy shows greater interest in Africa than ever before."


Bilateral trade high on agenda


Trade and investment between China and South Africa will be high on agenda when the two countries' leaders meet, the officials said.


With South Africa being China's largest trading partner in Africa for years, volumes of bilateral trade reached US$7.27 billion last year, increasing by 23 percent compared with 2004. Main commodities traded include garment, electronic products, ore and chemicals.


The figure may climb to US$8 billion this year, Liu Guijin said.


"Clearly the figures in percentage are good. But in the context of China's massive economic growth and its involvement into the world trading system, we believe there is much more we can do between our two countries to increase this percentage considerably higher," Pahad said.


South Africa has expressed its concern over trade imbalance in favor of China, insufficient Chinese investment into South Africa, and the influx of Chinese textile products into local market, which according to South African textile industry and trade unions has been a heavy blow to the local industry.


The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said late last month that China was considering to self restrain textile exports to South Africa.


Pahad said the two countries could explore business opportunities in various fields, such as energy, mining and mining-related technology, engineering, financial services, bio-technology, infrastructure development and construction, agro processing and tourism.


He said the visit of Wen could also be used by Pretoria to seek China's help in its ambitious Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (AsgiSA), which aims to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014 through maintaining a 6 percent growth of economy.


"This visit will be an opportunity for us to discuss with China on how to attract direct investment from China," he said.


He said South Africa can learn from China in dealing with poverty, pollution, energy consumption and other problems associated with economic growth.


"We hope that Chinese experience will be useful for us to see what we can use to ensure we can have sustainable development," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency June 21, 2006)

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