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China, S.Africa to launch free trade talks
Updated: 2004-07-01 01:28

China and South Africa will launch Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations after the latter recognized China's market economy status.

The two countries issued a joint communique on Tuesday following a visit by Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong.

The communique says China welcomes the Southern African Customs Union's decision to commence FTA negotiations.

"In affirmation of the positive changes in the Chinese economy and China opening up greater links with the world, South Africa was pleased to announce its recognition of China's market economy status," it says.

Market economy status will ease the process of linking the two economies, as it will establish common principles and standards to negotiate the rules that govern trade, it says.

"The two countries agreed to encourage and support mutual trade and investment and to expand co-operation in areas of mutual economic interest."

As the strongest economy of Africa, South Africa now has become China's largest trading partner in the continent. Bilateral trade has increased from US$1.47 billion in 1990 to more than US$3.7 billion last year.

Two-way trade in the first quarter this year amounted to US$1.67 billion, an increase of 66.6 per cent from the same period in 2003.

During a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday, Zeng said South Africa is "a key African partner of China" and China is willing to forge a strategic partnership with South Africa to seek equal and mutual benefits and common development.

"The two leaders agreed to work together to elevate the strategic partnership between the two countries to a new high," says the communique.

The two countries' leaders have also expressed their determination to strengthen the relationship and agreed to co-operate on issues pertaining to the World Trade Organization to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the developing world.

During the meeting with Mbeki, Zeng reaffirmed China's policy on Africa and emphasized China's commitment to building a new type of partnership with Africa based on long-term stability, equality, mutual benefit and co-operation.

He reiterated China's support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which was proposed by Mbeki and some other African leaders as a way of revitalizing the continent, African peace initiatives and the promotion of regional integration.

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