Opening Remarks by Ms Sue van der Merwe, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the Occasion of the “Showcase South Africa, Leverage China opportunities” Expo 2010 Shanghai China Roadshow, Friday 29 May 2009

Your Excellency, Madame Wu Youying

Vice Chairman of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Shanghai Committee and Chairman of Shanghai Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese

Your Excellency, Mr Zhong Jianhua

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to South Africa

Honourable Ms Lindi Maseko,

Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature

Distinguished Ambassadors and High Commissioners

Distinguished Members of the Southern African Shanghai World Expo Promotions Committee

The Organisers, African Wind Development

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address, on behalf of the South African people and government, this grand event to mark the launch of the promotional road-shows for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.

South Africa’s participation in the Shanghai Expo in 2010 is yet another demonstration of our commitment to the Strategic Partnership that began with the formal establishment of bilateral relations in 1998. Since then, our relations have grown from strength-to-strength and today we can confidently say that ours is indeed a special relationship.

While our diplomatic relations were formally established in 1998, our people-to-people contact go way back to the days of the liberation struggle when we could rely on the best wishes of support from the people of China. And today, we count again on the best wishes and support from the Chinese people! So to our honoured guests from Shanghai, who are present here today, please receive our warmest welcome and we trust that during your stay here you will also have the chance to experience the best of South African hospitality.

Turning to tonight’s event: The South African government attaches great importance to international events such as the Shanghai Expo, which provides the opportunity for countries to showcase the best of what they have to offer the world. Indeed, the World Expos are regarded as the Olympic Games of the Economy, and of Science and Technology. South Africa has participated in all the major Expos since 1992, namely Seville, Spain in 1992: Lisbon, Portugal in 1998: Hanover, Germany in 2000 and Aichi, Japan in 2005.  We will draw on these previous experiences in Expos to make our participation in the Shanghai Expo a memorable one.

For us as South Africa, next year will be an especially important year.  In addition to our participation in the Shanghai Expo we will be hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  We will utilise both these platforms to showcase South Africa as a modern and vibrant economy in order to promote inward investment and tourism into our country. We hope that we will also gain knowledge from others, in particular the Chinese people, who will similarly be showcasing their countries exceptional expertise at the Shanghai Expo. From these experiences we believe we can learn how other countries have utilised economic, scientific and technological advances to improve the lives of their own peoples.

Current reports from the Shanghai Expo Bureau indicate that there are some 278 countries and international organizations committed to participating in the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The figures show that there are more participants than the 2000 Hanover World Expo which attracted 155 countries and 17 international organizations. The Shanghai Expo is also expected to draw some 70 million visitors, including investors from all over the world. The 2010 Shanghai World Expo will therefore be the biggest ever in the history of World Expos.

Already a huge amount of work has been done to ensure that the event is a success.

The South African government is aware that in China we have a strategic partner working with us to create a better world and achieve a better life for all, including for our own people. South Africa and China are both committed to finding solutions to common challenges, those of underdevelopment, poverty, disease, illiteracy, and inequality.

We are therefore working to strengthen and enhance this strategic bilateral relationship and to implement the China-Africa partnership commitments made. 

Our two countries also work together in many multilateral forums and are also committed to promote South-South cooperation and to make the world a better place for present and future generations.

The large number of people here this evening reflects the weight attached to this occasion, and it is clear that after the highly successful Olympic Games in Beijing, the people and government of China will in turn host the best ever World Expo.

It is wonderful to see so many members of the South African Chinese community here this evening.  We know that we can count on them for support in our participation in Shanghai.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is important that South Africans see the linkages between our participation in the Shanghai Expo and the achievement of our domestic goals. In the last 15 years of democracy in South Africa we have fundamentally transformed South African society as well as our place in the international community. Our government continues to be driven by the values of freedom, democracy, human dignity and peace and stability. Poverty eradication and the desire to improve the quality of life of all our people continue to be placed at the forefront of government actions.

While we have not nor could have successfully eradicated all the negative legacies of over 400 years of colonialism and apartheid, we remain steadfast in our resolve to continue with our programmes at home to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of all South Africans.

Thus the new South African administration has identified five priority areas for the next five year term of office. These are education, health, land reform and rural development, combating crime and creating decent work.

We are convinced that to achieve these priority goals we need to grow our economy and grow the skills base of our people.

Participation in events such as the Shanghai Expo is an ideal platform to showcase South Africa as an investment and tourist destination of choice, which is critical in addressing our domestic priorities.

As I have mentioned, South Africa will be the host for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. It will be our great pleasure to welcome the Chinese football team and its supporters to our shores. This is an event that is unprecedented for South Africa in particular and Africa in general. It is our hope that South Africa and China will cooperate closely on the many opportunities arising from both the World Cup and the Expo as prestigious international events.

Distinguished Guests,

In conclusion, let us as partners ensure the success of 2010 Shanghai Expo, to which South Africa is fully committed. We also invite all our Chinese friends to support the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup, and in this way further deepen our strong diplomatic ties and indeed our people-to-people interactions.

Once more, a very warm South African welcome to all of you and especially our Chinese guests from Shanghai.

Thank you.

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