China offers Africa more trade, investment

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2009 7:45 AM

China is offering to abolish import duties on some commodities from Africa and make sure Chinese exports to the continent are safe as part of a package to boost already thriving economic ties, China's commerce minister said in an article published Saturday.

The proposals outlined by Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming come ahead of a summit Sunday and Monday between Chinese and African leaders in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The meeting follows a landmark 2006 summit in Beijing that catapulted China's hunt for oil, minerals and other raw materials in Africa and brought Africa Chinese investment in infrastructure and other projects.

Chinese investments in Africa totaled $7.8 billion as of last year while trade has rocketed 30 percent annually this decade, exceeding $100 billion last year, Chen said in an essay published in the state-run China Daily newspaper.

Among the new measures Chen proposed are exempting unspecified types of commodities from customs duties, setting up logistics centers in Africa and creating an inspection system to weed out trade in substandard consumer goods. China would also continue to build schools and hospitals, support malaria-prevention programs and improve farming methods in Africa, Chen said.

The proposals seem intended in part to blunt criticisms that rapidly growing economic ties were chiefly benefiting the Chinese side, with China reaping natural resources and cornering consumer markets while creating too few jobs for Africans. International aid watchdogs and good governance groups have likewise criticized Beijing for its loan policies in which few conditions are attached, thereby encouraging corruption.

"China has closely followed the development of Africa and sincerely wishes to make its contributions to the African people in developing their nations and creating a better life," Chen said.