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29 Jun 2004 16:32
South Africa and China signed seven agreements involving education, business and agriculture after a binational commission meeting in Pretoria, Deputy President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
“We certainly do share views on a number of issues and there are many similarities between our two countries,” said Zuma, explaining that South Africa and China agreed to work together both economically and politically.
Despite a handful of protesters picketing outside the presidential guest house in Pretoria against alleged Chinese human rights abuses, the meeting was hailed as a success by both parties.
Diplomatic relations with China were established in 1998.
The countries share views on the restructuring of the United Nations, the reform of the global trading system and the enhancement of South-South cooperation.
South Africa is China’s largest trading partner in Africa.
Zuma told reporters in Pretoria the visit by his Chinese counterpart, Zeng Qinghong, has helped develop political trust that will manifest itself in the building of a strong partnership between the two countries.
Responding to suggestions that China replace the West as Africa’s main benefactor, Zeng replied that China will do what it can to support and assist African countries.
“But I don’t think China could fill this gap.
Zuma said ways of permanently including China in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development are being considered in order for China’s economic boom to have a positive effect on the rest of the continent.
“The South Africa/China relationship is a critical element in helping both countries, as well, as the continent, move forward,” he said.
A possible free trade agreement between China and the Southern African Customs Union was also discussed.
Zuma said strong South-South relations will make for a strong bargaining bloc on the world stage.
“The ill-fated World Trade Organisation round of talks at Cancun indicated that the South needs to remain united and focused in order to achieve its development goals,” he said.
Returning to the continent, Zuma welcomed renewed commitment from Beijing to participate in African peacekeeping operations and went on to ask China for help in the provision of “resources both human and material” to bring about peace.
“An investment in peace and stability is a noble investment, and one that will yield returns for generations to come,” he said.
Zen, Zuma and their ministers signed agreements pertaining to education, grant aid to South Africa on human resources projects and export quality control on agricultural goods.
Agreements on the export of citrus products to China, cooperation between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in South Africa and the China Council for Promotion of International Trade, and a letter of intent between the Sasol petroleum company and six Chinese companies were also signed.
Ian Watson, chief executive of Transvaal Ferro-Chrome (now International Ferro Metals) said Chinese companies have purchased 25% equity in International Ferro Metals for R1,5-billion.
He said that China, a huge market for metals produced in South Africa, is starting to invest considerable sums in the local market.
Sasol has also embarked on a feasibility study on two $3-billion projects in China with a consortium of six Chinese companies.
The projects involve extracting oil from coal, using Sasol technology.
“China has plenty of coal but imports 100-million tons of crude oil a year and is looking at South African investment and expertise to reduce this amount,” said the Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Liu Gui Jin, earlier.
Concluding the commission, Zuma said he has gladly accepted Zeng’s invitation to visit China, which will be undertaken before year-end.
Zen concluded that the success of the meeting will “lift bilateral relations to a new height”.—Sapa
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