The Second Ministerial Conference of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum (FOCAC) kicked off in Addis Ababa Monday, aiming to greatly improve the all-around cooperation between China and African countries.
Highlighted by the action-oriented spirit, the meeting, which gathered China and 44 African government delegations, is the first ministerial conference of the forum to be held on the African continent, and will be a significant event in the Sino-African relationship.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, his host counterpart Meles Zenawi and a dozen of other African heads of state or government attended the opening ceremony, and also present are Chinese and African foreign ministers and ministers in charge of the international economic cooperation, and representatives of some international and regional organizations as well.
While giving his welcome address, Meles said that China's policy towards Africa has always been based on the principles of mutual respect and equality and Africa has always been a reliable friend of China and its people.
He thanked China for having fulfilled its commitment in making significant debt cancellation for 31 African countries.
Addressing after the Chinese premier, Mozambican President and current Chairperson of the African Union Joaqium Alberto Chissano invited China to play a valuable and significant role for the development of Africa within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
Agriculture is seen as the sector that can ensure food security, eradicate poverty and improve people's livelihood in Africa and "I, therefore, invite the people and government of China to support, under NEPAD, the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program," he said.
"I will take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of our continent in strengthening the cooperation and solidarity with the People's Republic of China."
He also felt appreciated that China has signed protocols on debt relief and cancellation with 31 African countries under the framework of the HIPC initiative.
In his speech to the conference, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said that the significance of this forum inheres in China's pivotal role in global affairs together with Africa's acknowledged strategic importance in the international scheme of things.
"The People's Republic of China is the fastest growing country in the global economy. China's politics have always been pro-Africa, pro-third world, anti-imperial and anti-hegemonic."
While addressing the conference, Chinese Premier Wen said the Chinese government is ready to further expand high-level exchanges between the two sides, and provide new impetus to China-Africa friendly relations and the mechanism of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum through regular leadership meetings and dialogues.
He said China and Africa share the same goal and interests in promoting democratization of international relations and China supports Africa's position on multi-lateralism
"We maintain that the developing countries should benefit from the process of globalization instead of being marginalized," said the premier. "The Chinese government supports and will actively participate in the North-South dialogue."
He added China is ready to coordinate its positions with African countries in the process of international economic rules formulation and multilateral trade negotiations, with a view to safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.
Arousing big applause, Wen announced that the Chinese government will gradually increase its aid to Africa under the framework of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum to facilitate pragmatic cooperation between China and Africa.
"We will further open our market, and grant duty-free market access for some of the commodities from the least developed countries in Africa," he said.
"We will increase our capital investment to the African Human Resources Development Fund by 33 percent, and provide professional training of various kinds to 10,000 African personnel in the next three years."
He continued that China will encourage and facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation between Chinese and African enterprises, and encourage Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa.
To step up our tourism cooperation with Africa, the premier said China will grant eight more African countries the status of approved destination for outbound Chinese tourists.
He said that China proposes to stage a "China-Africa Youth Festival" and grand Africa-themed cultural exchange activities in China next year.
"We will vigorously cooperate with African countries in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, in the prevention of natural disasters and in environmental protection."
Wen concluded his speech by urging China and Africa to join hands, under the new circumstances, to build on the past achievements and bring China-Africa friendly cooperation to a new high.
The main agenda of the conference is to review the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the Program for China-Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development, two documents adopted during the first ministerial meeting of the forum held in Beijing in 2000.
It is also be highlighted in the agenda to explore new initiatives and measures on the way toward Sino-African cooperation in such areas of priority as human resources development, agriculture, infrastructure development, investment and trade.
During the two-day conference, the participants will discuss and adopt the Addis Ababa Action of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (2004-2006) and among others, will make final decision on the date and venue of the third ministerial conference.
Under the theme of "Friendship, Cooperation and Development" and in an action-oriented spirit, the participants will hold extensive and in-depth discussion and exchanges on how to further promote the establishment of a new, stable and long-term China-Africa partnership of equality and mutual benefit and all-around cooperation.
The first ministerial conference of the forum was held in Beijing, capital of China, from Oct. 10 to 12, 2000.
The conference reached a brad consensus about establishing a fair and just international political and economic order in the 21century, and discussed how to promote Sino-African economic and trade cooperation.
The Beijing Declaration and the Program for China-Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development, the two official documents adopted in the meeting, laid the framework for China and Africa to build long-standing, stable and mutually beneficial new relations.
To strengthen the forum mechanism and better implement its follow-up actions, the Chinese side established its China-Africa Cooperation Forum Follow-up Committee in December 2001, which is composed of senior officials from 21 ministries, commissions and agencies.
(Xinhua News Agency December 16, 2003)