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Out of Africa and into a New World Trading Order
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By You Nuo

Beijing is hosting a China-Africa summit this week and many poster boards have been erected along the city's major roads announcing the importance of Sino-African relations. The significance of the once seemingly distant continent to China is yet to be fully appreciated by many people here. And the best rewards China can hopefully gain from Africa are nothing material.

Of course, material-wise, China's benefit from Africa is indisputable rich. According to officials from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, China-African trade is expected to exceed US$50 billion this year, boosted, in part, by the most-favored-nation trade status that China and 41 African countries provide to each other.

Five years ago, by comparison, China's trade with Africa was still US$10 billion. In trade volume, Africa's importance for China increased five times in five years, faster than any other region's increase in the world.

Viewed in conjunction with the upcoming fifth anniversary of China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the completion of membership compliance, this is only the beginning. China's trade is on a rapid rise with all continents in the world and the trend is showing no signs of abating.

Although many Chinese doubted its fruition five years ago, when Beijing mustered courage to pursue China's WTO membership, it is now clear the country has benefited enormously from joining it and becoming a more active participant in the global market.

Some 20 years ago, China's weight was only marginal in global trade. In only five years, China has advanced by leaps and bounds.

Many other countries in the developing world can also achieve similar results. Equally rapid changes would occur in their economies if they could better accommodate the global market system, and embark on social programs at the same time.

China can do more for its African partners than just buying more goods and services.

It can try to involve more of these countries into free trade relations, whether with China's neighbors in East Asia and Southeast Asia, or with other big emerging market countries, such as India and Brazil, and even developed countries.

Learning to be a co-manager of the global trade relations will create an increasing sense of certainty for traders in all countries. Such a favorable global business environment will bring healthy returns to China.

One of the most important ways China can help African countries is assisting in the development programs. China has plenty of hard-working skilled farmers with various cash crops and managers of small labor-intensive factories.

Such human resources are still not expensive compared to those provided by NGOs and aid organizations from the developed countries, although these Western-based groups may have greater financial expertise and local knowledge.

It would be rewarding if China played a bigger role in Africa's economic and social programs through multi-lateral efforts with local governments and international organizations.

Recruiting volunteer university graduates to go to Africa with experienced farmers and small factory managers can generate good returns both ways.

In many parts of China, especially in its poor regions, there are a glaring lack of social programs, adequate leaders and organizers.

Young Chinese intellectuals toughened by experience of working in international programs can serve as managers of similar programs when they come home.

(China Daily October 30, 2006)

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