Ministers and representatives from China and 48 African countries held a ministerial meeting in Beijing Friday to make final preparations for a high-profile summit due to open Saturday.
Participants discussed and passed an action plan, laying out cooperative programs between China and Africa from 2007 to 2009 under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
The meeting, the third since 2000, also discussed a draft declaration and decided to submit it to the FOCAC Beijing Summit, a landmark event which leaders from 48 African countries are to participate in.
The declaration is expected to be passed at the summit, which is themed on the bases of "friendship, peace, cooperation and development."
These two documents will give guiding principles for the development of China-Africa relations and their future cooperation, sources with the Foreign Ministry said.
Vice Premier Wu Yi lauded the 50-year-long China-Africa relations at the opening ceremony of the meeting, saying that the FOCAC, set up in 2000, is a key strategic move by China and Africa to help face challenges in the new century, promote traditional friendship and enhance cooperation.
Wu said the FOCAC had launched a series of cooperative plans and formed a key platform with effective mechanisms for collective dialogue and pragmatic cooperation.
"The FOCAC and its development will provide useful experience for South-South cooperation," Wu said.
Wu said the two sides should always instill new vitality into the Forum, draw up plans for future cooperation and related activities to turn the Forum into a pacesetter in promoting Sino-African friendship.
"The two sides should give full play to the role of the Forum as a mechanism of collective dialogue, keep close consultation, develop new consensus, closely study new trends in cooperation, expand common interests and appropriately address new problems arising in the course of cooperation, so as to turn the Forum into an effective platform for safeguarding the common interests of the two sides," she said.
The meeting was jointly presided over by Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopia's Minister of Finance and Economic Development Sufian Ahmed. Ethiopia is currently the FOCAC's co-chair country.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Seyoum said China had given Africa a lot of support in the fight against colonialism and for independence as well as having scrupulously observed principles of international law.
Seyoum called this the reason "why the forum has made such progress and why on the African side there existed full commitments to making the process a resounding success."
He said the forum's elevation to summit level "is a demonstration of the commitment of both sides to the further expansion of the cooperation between Africa and China. It is an affirmation of the conviction on the part of both that the consolidation of the process is in the interest of both China and Africa."
Seyoum stated that since the ministerial forum was launched six years ago, China and Africa have carried out cooperation in areas including trade, investment and human resources. "It has also created close coordination between the two sides on international issues."
"The last three years have witnessed an accelerated growth in the volume of trade between Africa and China. The potential in this area is enormous," he said.
Seyoum also encouraged more inter-personal relations between Africa and China, saying "there is no better way ensuring the sustainability of a partnership than ensuring that it is rooted in people-to-people relations."
The trade volume between Africa and China rocketed to US$39.7 billion in 2005 after breaking the US$10 billion mark in 2000.
Under the Forum's framework, China has canceled debt amounting to 10. 5 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion) incurred by 31 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries in Africa, and has given zero-tariff treatment to 190 categories of import commodities from 29 African countries.
During the second ministerial conference in Addis-Ababa three years ago, China pledged to help train 10,000 professionals for Africa, a program due for completion this year as scheduled.
At the upcoming Beijing Summit, leaders are expected to focus on economic cooperation, professional training and business investment, according to sources with the Foreign Ministry.
The objective of the Summit is to build a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership featuring political equality and trust, mutually beneficial economic cooperation and cultural exchanges, the sources said.
The fourth FOCAC ministerial meeting will be held in 2009 in Egypt.
(Xinhua News Agency November 3, 2006)