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China, South Africa to launch free trade talk
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-01 08:58

PRETORIA: 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 its 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."

The strongest economy of Africa, South Africa is now 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.

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