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Chinese Premier in South Africa to 'Deepen' Ties

  • Delia Robertson

South Africa and China have concluded an agreement on textile trade they say will protect the local textile industry from cheap Chinese imports. The deal is one of several initialed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and President Thabo Mbeki in Cape Town.

Details of the new agreement are not yet known, but the Chinese premier said his country will take what he called "self-restrictive" measures to limit China's export of textiles to South Africa. In addition, he said, China will assist South Africa and other African countries to further develop their own textile industries.

Textile industries in Southern and East Africa are facing fierce competition from Chinese textile imports, which analysts say have contributed to widespread business closures and job losses. In South Africa alone, 25,000 textile industry jobs have been lost in the past two years.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka described the agreement as unique but warned that it depended on China being willing to "walk the extra mile." Mlambo-Ngucka was speaking at the China-South Africa Business Cooperation Forum being held in Cape as part of Premier Wen's two-day visit to South Africa.

Some local analysts have warned that it will be difficult for China to enforce the so-called self-restricting measures.

Premier Wen says his country is seeking long-term strategic partnerships in Africa and stressed that these partnership would be based on respect for the social systems and developments goals established by African countries. He said China does not seek to export its own values to Africa.

Trade between the countries is currently weighted heavily in favor of China; South Africa imports from China are currently $4.4 billion per year, while the annual value of exports is just $1 billion.

A total of 13 agreements were signed including one on the peaceful use of atomic energy. China will fund training assistance for the development of professionals to the value of $2.5 million to assist in reducing a major skills shortage in South Africa.

Earlier, Premier Wen visited Angola to cement last month's agreement between China's state-owned energy company Sinopec and Sonangol, Angola's state-owned oil producer. Earlier this year, Angola became China's largest supplier of crude oil.

From South Africa, Premier Wen travels to Tanzania and Uganda.

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