Chinese commerce minister sees brilliant future of China-Africa trade co-op

16:20, November 11, 2009      

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The economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa is brilliant in the near future, said Chen Deming, Chinese minister of commerce, when commenting on the just-concluded ministerial conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

Chen had an interview with Xinhua after attending the fourth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC, which was held in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday and Monday. Nearly 100 ministers from 49 African countries and China participated in the conference.

Chen said one of the major achievements of this conference is that China and African countries reached agreement on a new action plan for the coming three years.

"The eight new measures announced by Premier Wen Jiabao in the opening ceremony are in the same line as the previous eight raised by President Hu Jintao in the Beijing Summit in 2006 and also adapted to the current international situation and the real demands of African countries," said Chen, adding "We will keep strengthening our help to Africa with our own development."

Chen said the eight new measures were praised by African representatives during the meeting, and a lot of his African counterparts are keen to have talks with the Chinese side as soon as possible to discuss the optimal implementation of these measures.

According to Chen, the trade between China and Africa developed rapidly with an annual increase rate of 30 percent in the past eight years, and the trade volume exceeded 100 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. Nearly 1,600 Chinese enterprises have started business in African countries with a direct investment stock of 7.8 billion dollars, and their business range from manufacture and construction to agricultural processing and resources development.

When asked about his personal impression on his visit to Africa to participate in the meeting, Chen said he was deeply touched by African people's sincere friendship with Chinese people.

"African friends expressed their desire, both in the meeting and on the sideline, to be good brothers and partners with us forever. This is the strong foundation for the new type of strategic partnership between us," he said.

"China is always concerned with Africa's developments and wants to help African people constructing their countries and improve their living with all our hearts," he added.

According to him, since it established diplomatic relations with African countries more than 50 years ago, China has provide various kinds of aid to 53 countries with more than 800 sets of projects. Altogether, 306 debts owed by 34 African countries were canceled, 17,000 Chinese medical personnel were dispatched to Africa and 30,000 African people received training process.

During the three years after the Beijing summit, Chen said, China provided assistance in a number of infrastructure projects, including the national stadium of Zambia, a bridge in Mali, a hydropower station in Gabon, the new airport of Mauritius and the ring road of Nairobi. China also built 100 schools for 50,000 children in rural areas and 30 hospitals with 4,000 beds.

Chen emphasized that China's assistance to Africa started not from the past a few years; in a long period since 50 years ago, Chinese people tightened their belts while supporting African people's cause for independence and development.

"I remember we accompanied President Hu to the cemetery of Chinese workers who died in building the Tanzania-Zambia Railway during our visit to Tanzania this year. When Mr. Hu expressed his condolence in front of the tomb of a 22-year-old worker, our eyes were all filled with tears," Chen said.

He added that on the one hand, Chinese governmental aid is selfless and volunteer without any political conditions, and "we particularly provide more support to those least developed countries with little resources."

While on the other hand, Chen said, the investment of Chinese enterprises on African natural resources is through open and fair international bidding. Chinese enterprises not only exploit natural resources, but also transfer resources into deep processing. They sell their products to the world with international market prices and pay taxes, bringing more revenue to African countries. In effect, their investment makes African resources more valuable by breaking some Western countries' monopoly of resources and blockage of technology.

"We should not attach the label of neocolonialism to resources exploitation as long as it complies with the principle of equality and mutual benefit," Chen said.

Speaking about the prospect of China-Africa economic cooperation, Chen said during the coming three years since the conclusion of this ministerial conference till the next one, the economic and trade cooperation will be push to a higher level. "The action plan was adopted, so the governments, enterprises and all people of China and Africa should begin to act as soon as possible. I believe the future is brilliant."

As African countries want more products enter into Chinese market, "we will phase in zero-tariff treatment to 95 percent of the products from the least developed African countries," he said, adding "only within next year, we will exempt the tariff of 4,700 items of goods, which is 10 times the current 470 items."

He said with China's zero-tariff policy, more and more products made in Africa, including green agricultural and high quality industrial products, will enter into Chinese market with favorable price to serve Chinese people's demands.

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