Your Excellency, Mr Tian Xuejun, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the Government and the People of the Republic of South Africa, it is a singular pleasure and honour for me to convey to the Government and the People of the People’s Republic of China our congratulations on the 64th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
South Africa and the People’s Republic of China have maintained diplomatic relations based on the “One China Policy” since the establishment of diplomatic relations on 1 January 1998.
Since then, our relations have matured to the point where the Beijing Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was signed in August 2010 during President Zuma’s State Visit to China.
As we celebrate 15 years of diplomatic relations, South Africa recognises that the relationship we have with China is more than diplomatic in the strict sense of the word. We share a common understanding of history and of the struggle for freedom and independence.
This milestone is set to be observed by both countries starting next year. 2014 will be heralded the “Year of South Africa in China” and 2015 is declared the ‘Year of China in South Africa”.
A series of events will be held in both China and South Africa which will also include ceremonies to celebrate the 20th year of South Africa’s freedom next year.
China and South Africa have managed to strengthen and broaden our relationship in many spheres. Economic and trade relations between us have grown, with China becoming South Africa’s largest trading partner as of 2009. In 2012, exports from SA to China amounted to R82 billion, while imports from China to SA totaled R119 billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of R37 billion for South Africa.
I am happy to note that South Africa has been expanding its market share in China in an ever widening range of products. These include: steel, aluminum, paper and pulp, plastics, agro-processing, automotive components, electro-technical products, chemicals, manufactured goods (such as industrial pumps), and capital equipment. To be more specific, we have exported significantly more wines, cereals, fruit (oranges, grapes, apples and pears); fish; canned fruit; bovine meat; butanol; polypropylene; stainless steel; alloys and coils; tooling products; shock absorbers; filters; mining safety equipment and industrial pumps.
It is an indication of our increasing trade relations that a key aspect of the Beijing Declaration indicates that both China and South Africa will work together to ensure a higher proportion of value added products in the exports from South Africa to China.
It must be noted that South Africa has also heavily invested its Foreign Direct Investment in China since 1994
South Africa is also pursuing major investment projects with China in the areas of mining and beneficiation, renewable energy, energy, automotive, infrastructure, oil and gas, ICT, freight and rail capital, transport, and agro-processing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To further promote sustainable trade relations, we have established a Joint Inter-Ministerial Working Group, or JWG, as well as a Technical Committee on Trade Statistics. The Terms of Reference of the JWG are very practical:
To coordinate and promote the implementation of major cooperative projects in the areas of trade, investment, infrastructure, energy, communication, agriculture, regional cooperation and the development of human resources;
To explore cooperation opportunities and exchange information on the above mentioned areas;
To conduct an in-depth analysis on challenges and bottle-necks with the aim of providing appropriate remedies.
Next month, we will be holding the first joint meeting of the JWG in Beijing and I am sure that the work we have done in preparation bodes well for its outcome.
We are also looking forward to travelling to China next month for the 5th meeting of the Bi-National Commission. South Africa’s delegation will be led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
It is also delightful to note the remarkable growth in Tourism between our two countries.
The latest figures from Statistics SA comparing the ranking of international visitors to South Africa in the first quarter of 2012 with the same period for 2013 placed China up one place and ranks China number four, for the first quarter of 2013 after being number five in 2012.
In the first quarter of 2013, forty one thousand six hundred and fifty (41 650) Chinese tourists arrived in South Africa - an impressive 34.87% growth on the first quarter of 2012.
It is encouraging to see that South Africa with its diverse regions and cultures, exceptional natural beauty and shopping opportunities is attracting more Chinese tourists and students.
South Africa appreciates your government’s gesture, in offering 200 new scholarships over a period of five years to South Africans. I am told the programme should commence this year. Indeed, this generosity will constitute a valuable contribution to South Africa’s skills development objectives.
We are fully committed to building on the positive achievements that we have made together at bilateral, regional and international levels, while recognising the many challenges that still face us collectively. We remain confident that China will continue to be an all-weather friend to South Africa and the African continent. South Africa remains committed to working with China within the context of all the groups within which we share a platform, based on the Beijing Declaration. These include collaboration within the multilateral system, including the United Nations, WTO & Bretton Woods institutions, the G77 and China, the BASIC group on climate change, BRICS, FOCAC where we are working together to advance Africa’s socio-economic development.
In the G20, we are collaborating to address global financial and economic challenges. Underpinning our cooperation in all these organisations and formations is the recognition that the system of global governance requires fundamental reform to be more responsive to the needs of developing counties.
Crucially, South Africa and China have common cause in ensuring the integrity of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, where we worked together excellently during South Africa’s tenure as non-permanent member.
Excellencies, please allow me to elaborate a bit more about South Africa’s role as Co-Chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which we assumed in Beijing at the 5th FOCAC Ministerial Conference last year.
We took the baton from Egypt, on behalf of the African side and will host the 6th FOCAC Ministerial Conference in 2015. During our tenure as Co-Chair, we will continue to ensure that the principles of South-South cooperation are realised, notably with regards to the North-South Corridor and infrastructure development on the African Continent. Our attention will be focused on strengthening the role of the African Union Commission (AUC) because we believe it should play a central role in all Africa’s Developmental Partnerships, including the FOCAC.
On 25 May last year the Square Kilometer Array Organisation announced that the SKA project would be shared between South Africa and Australia, with a majority share coming to South Africa. This is an important project for the advancement of global astronomy. Above all, this project will not only benefit Africa, but the entire global scientific and business community. During the State Visit to South Africa on 26 March this year, President Zuma thanked the Chinese leadership for its support to South Africa in this respect. I think it is only appropriate that we express our deep gratitude towards China at this occasion as well.
In conclusion, as we reflect on the great strides we have made in our bilateral relationship and in our cooperation at multilateral level, please allow me, on behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of South Africa, to propose a toast to the health and prosperity of the President of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Mr. Xi Jinping, to the people of the PRC and to the continued peace, stability and development of your great country!