S.Africa's entry to BRIC beneficial: envoy

08:34, January 24, 2011      

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Bheki Langa, South African ambassador to China. Photo: Wang Zhaokun

An invitation given to South Africa by the BRIC bloc of nations to join their ranks will serve to create a mutually beneficial and strategic relationship, South Africa's ambassador to China told the Global Times in a recent interview.

"BRIC's acceptance of South Africa as a full member is a recognition of the advances the country has made in economic construction, as well as of the constructive role South Africa has played in some key issues affecting the world," Bheki Langa said Thursday.

The BRIC nations comprised Brazil, Russia, India and China, but will now be known as BRICS after last month's invitation of South Africa, which has the largest economy in Africa.

Langa said South Africa's joining of the bloc also means that his country is being globally recognized as the "gateway" to the African continent, which has a potential market of 1 billion people and is the source of new economic growth.

"It is true that, compared with other members of BRICS, South Africa is still far smaller in the size of its economy," Langa said, commenting on some of South Africa's disadvantages in joining the group, noting that the nation's economy is less than a quarter of the size of Russia's, the smallest in the original group.

However, he stressed that, as the most powerful country in Africa, South Africa could help open up opportunities on the African continent, and through that the country could complete its economic integration on the continent. Langa said 90 percent of the trade to Africa goes via the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Aspirations with China

Langa said he believes that relations between China and South Africa, with their large developing economies, are set to become closer with South Africa becoming a full member of the bloc. "For South Africa, China is not only the No. 1 trade partner, it is indeed a key strategic partner."

The ambassador also said that one of the issues the two sides are working closely together to address is how to achieve a more equitable balance of trade between the countries. South Africa ran a $2.7 billion trade deficit with China in 2009, according to official South African statistics.

"Following the successful state visit by President Jacob Zuma to China last year, the two countries have agreed to promote balanced and stable trade and investment between each other," Langa said.

Langa noted that the Chinese government is pushing for more imports from South Africa, especially of value-added products. "We also would like to see more Chinese companies and investors invest in South Africa," he said.

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