Zuma to charm China

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pretoria - South Africa will push for expansion of both trade and direct investment when President Jacob Zuma visits China later this month in one of the legs of a worldwide tour to expand ties with the world's biggest economies.

Zuma, who is currently in Russia, is on a diplomatic blitz of the four biggest emerging markets, also known as BRIC - Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa is clamouring to become the fifth member of the grouping.

The visit scheduled for 24 and 25 August has seen a "massive interest" from business to accompany Zuma, with at least 200 businesspeople expected, International Relations Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba told a media briefing earlier today.

China is South Africa's largest trading partner. South African exports there amounted to R42.45 billion, while imports amounted to R59.10 billion with a trade balance of R16.65 billion.

There is room for Chinese companies to invest in capital equipment and infrastructure development in the country.

However, workers unions have in the past raised concerns about the impact that cheaper Chinese imports will have on employment in the ailing manufacturing industry, particularly clothing and textiles, to lower trade barriers any further.

With regards to the Russian visit, Ntsaluba said the visit will seek to build on the historical relations between these countries by increasing trade activity and the sharing of knowledge.

Zuma will hold talks with his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev and they will sign several agreements to strengthen relations between the two countries. He will also hold talks with Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin.

The country will also push forward several specific projects, including a partnership using Russian technology, he said.

Zuma is also expected to visit Lesotho next week. The two neighbouring countries share a rich history. Due to its challenges, thousands of its workers have been forced by the lack of job opportunities to find work in South Africa.

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