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S. Africa, China to Deepen Political, Economic Ties
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South Africa and China will discuss how to boost bilateral trade and investment and to work more closely in international affairs ranging from Africa's development to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits the country next week, a South African official said on Tuesday.


South African President Thabo Mbeki and Wen are expected to co-sign an agreement on deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries during Wen's visit on June 21-22 in Cape Town, Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said in Pretoria.


The agreement is considered a further step for South Africa, Africa's leading economic and political player, and China, one of the fast-growing economies in the world, to consolidate bilateral ties officially forged in 1998.


"A review of bilateral political and economic relations between the two countries, including the promotion of trade and investment, is high on the agenda of the meeting (between Mbeki and Wen)," Pahad told a media briefing.


Wen's visit to South Africa, part of his seven-nation tour to Africa, takes place against the backdrop of China's increasing presence in the world's poorest continent with huge potentials for development.


"China has considered South Africa a strategic partner in its endeavor to strengthen and consolidate its historical relations with Africa," said Pahad.


China is to host the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit in November this year to discuss with African leaders, including Mbeki, on how to promote their traditional friendship into mutually beneficial cooperation.


Pahad said Mbeki and Wen would look at preparations for the summit during the meeting.


Bilateral trade on high agenda


During his visit, Wen will lead a Chinese business delegation to join a business cooperation forum together with South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, which Pahad said will help create interactions between Chinese and South African business people.


Pahad said that China's experiences in socio-economic development, poverty eradication and job creation could be valuable and useful for South Africa and other African countries.


China now is South Africa's second largest import trading partner and the eighth largest export partner, with both imports and exports growing 30 percent in 2005 compared to 2004, Pahad said.


But South Africa has expressed its concern over trade imbalance in favor of China. In 2005, imports from China totaled 31.476 billion rand (US$4.84 billion), while exports came to 8.76 billion rand (US$1.35 billion).


Much more need to be done to address the imbalance in investment, as Chinese investments into South Africa amounts to US$130 million while South African investments in China amount to US$400 million, Pahad said.


Common interest in international affairs


Pahad said topics of the meeting between Mbeki and Wen would include nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula and Iran, since China, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, plays a key role in non-proliferation and the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.


The leaders are also expected to discuss the forthcoming summit of Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, to be hosted in Russia next month.


Both South Africa and China, in addition to Mexico and Brazil, will be participating in the summit as "Strategic Outreach Partners" of the G8 to discuss international energy security, climate change, prevention of communicable diseases and education development, Pahad said.


The leaders will review the progress of the one-year-old New Africa Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP), which aims to boost Africa-Asia economic relations through increased foreign direct investment, market access and trade to tackle common challenges of poverty and underdevelopment.


Mbeki and Wen will also discuss issues concerning South-South cooperation under the framework of G-77 plus China, as well as the World Trade Organization negotiations.


"Both South Africa and China have synergistic views on strengthening of the international trading and financial system," Pahad said.


(Xinhua News Agency June 14, 2006)

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