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China, S. Africa Agree to Deepen Their 'Strategic Partnership'
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China and South Africa agreed to enhance bilateral ties and have identified various areas for further cooperation, ranging from the United Nations (UN) reforms, peacekeeping in Africa, to free trade talks and skill training.


These were inked in the "Program of Cooperation on Deepening the Strategic Partnership" between China and South Africa, which was signed by South African President Thabo Mbeki and visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Cape Town and was published Thursday.


"It was necessary to expand and deepen the strategic partnership between the two countries through enhanced political dialogue and cooperation in all fields to promote common development for the benefit of the two peoples," said the document.


The signing has been regarded a step of the two countries, both as key forces in the developing world, to further consolidate their relationship tied in 1998.


China and South Africa agreed to keep high-level contacts and exchange views on bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual interest in an in-depth and wide-ranging way.


Both sides "share common views and positions in promoting multilateralism and democracy in international relations and upholding the common rights and interests of developing countries," said the document.


The two countries have been invited to a summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations in Russia next month, where they are expected to voice concerns of developing countries over market access, aid, climate change and health.


On the stalled reform of the UN Security Council, with China as one of its five permanent members, China and South Africa stressed the need to "increase the representation of African Member States" in the decision-making organ, and agreed to continue to exchange views and work together in this regard.


The African Union, Africa's 53-member bloc, has insisted that the existing five-member permanent Security Council panel should be added with two veto-wielding permanent seats, with South Africa among front-runner candidates.


China also promised to continue to participate in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa and support peacekeeping operations conducted by regional and sub-regional organizations in Africa.


In economic field, the two countries said they would seek to expand bilateral trade in a manner of "fairness, equality and mutual benefit."


With South Africa being China's largest trading partner in Africa for years, volumes of bilateral trade reached 7.27 billion U.S. dollars last year, increasing by 23 percent compared with 2004. The figure could climb to 8 billion dollars this year.


But South Africa has expressed its concern over trade imbalance in favor of China, insufficient Chinese investment into South Africa, and the influx of Chinese textile products into local market, which according to South African textile industry and trade unions has been a heavy blow to the local industry.


Wen said Wednesday in Cape Town that China was willing to take self-restrictive measures to limit China's export of textiles to South Africa "in order to ensure stability in the textile market in this country."


The document said China was also ready to undertake detailed free-trade discussions with the Southern African Customs Union, dominated by South Africa.


The SACU-China Free Trade Agreement was expected to help bring greater investment to South Africa while boosting South Africa's exports to the Chinese market.


China offered to assist South Africa in its ambitious Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (AsgiSA), which aims to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014 through maintaining a 6 percent growth of economy.


"China is ready to provide assistance to the best of its ability in human resources development, including skills training, capacity building and Chinese language teaching," said the document.


Over the next three years, China will train 300 personnel for South Africa in economic and administrative management, civil engineering and Chinese language tour guide.


Agriculture, energy, tourism, health, scientific research and crime-fighting were also identified as key areas for China and South Africa to carry out broader cooperation, according to the document.


(Xinhua News Agency June 23, 2006)

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