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China, US should cooperate on doing business in Africa: expert

By Hua Shengdun in Washington (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-01-23 13:07

China and the United States should enhance their cooperation on business in Africa, said an expert on Wednesday.

"China and the US have lots of opportunities for collaboration, and there should be more," David Shinn, adjunct professor of international affairs at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, said at the Cosmos club in Washington.

Cooperation in the health sector could "collaboratively improve the situation in Africa", Shinn, a former US ambassador to several African countries, said at the meeting hosted by the Maryland-China Business Council.

Preventing the spread of the Ebola virus is an example. Johnson & Johnson Inc, the US pharmaceuticals giant, worked on a vaccine and provided funds and training to Chinese doctors and nurses in Africa last year.

The company also sponsored a national campaign in China to highlight doctors working on foreign aid programs. The National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) were included.

Xie Yuan, CPAFFFC vice-president, said the campaign's goal was to increase international cooperation on public health.

While the US and China aim to export more goods to Africa, Shinn said they could also work to "build the export capacity of African countries by building their competitiveness in global markets".

"Both countries could provide technical assistance for this purpose," he said.

He said China and the US could also enhance their collaboration in areas of corporate social responsibility and climate change, as both of them "have demonstrated their concern in recent years" over the issues.

Such a joint approach might be welcomed by African countries, Shinn said.

Both sides have highlighted business and investments on the African continent in recent years.

The US held its first US-Africa Leaders Summit in April, bringing together one of the largest groups of international leaders in Washington history. Nearly 50 African heads of state were present.

New deals worth about $900 million were announced, which added to the annual trade of $85 billion between US and African nations in the previous year. China conducts more than $200 billion worth of trade a year with Africa.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act implemented during the Clinton administration was framed as increasing the continent's share of global trade by reducing non-tariff barriers.

In 2012, the Obama administration established the Power Africa initiative to build electrical infrastructure across Africa.

While many reckoned that China may ultimately have the greatest influence over the proceedings, President Obama said last year that he does not necessarily view the US and China as driven by zero-sum competition in Africa.

"My attitude was every country that sees investment opportunities and is willing to partner with African countries should be welcomed," he said in an interview with The Economist.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the country's efforts to expand economic ties with Africa after an eight-day tour of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya in May.

Agreements were signed including a $3.6 billion, 380-mile railway line linking Nairobi to Kenya, and a $12 billion aid package from China ($10 billion in loans and $2 billion for the Chinese Africa Development Fund).

The commitments fall in line with the general trends of emphasizing "peace and security as well as economic cooperation", which is the Africa policy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, said Amadou Sy, senior fellow and director for the Africa Growth Initiative.

"It's a win-win situation for all," said Vivian Derryck, president and CEO of Bridges Institute, an organization launched at Harvard University in 2009 to forge trade and social development links between Africa and China, the US and other countries.

Africa is changing, and has strong economic prospects, especially in agriculture, energy and infrastructure, Derryck said.

"Successful cooperation depends heavily on the active engagement of the American and Chinese ambassadors and key embassy staff on the ground," Shinn said. "At the same time, there must be signals from Washington and Beijing that both governments are fully behind the cooperative endeavor."

Differences and stiff competition still exist in the Chinese and American approaches to Africa, so it is "in the interest of both governments to seek out those areas where they can cooperate", Shinn said.

Sheng Yang in Washington contributed to this story.

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