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Iran Press TV

African leaders in China for third summit on cooperation

Iran Press TV

Mon Sep 3, 2018 06:05AM

Beijing is hosting African leaders for a high-level summit aimed at strengthening China-Africa relations, with the discussions expected to mainly focus on President Xi Jinping's "new Silk Road" initiative.

The third Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in the capital, Beijing, on Monday and Tuesday, with more than 50 African leaders in attendance.

The two-day "mega event" is co-chaired by President Xi and his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa.

According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Xi will use the summit as an opportunity to outline a "specific vision on building a China-Africa community with a shared future, and announce proposals and measures... to strengthen China-Africa cooperation."

South Africa's Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who also attends the summit, said on Sunday that the participants are looking for ways to "advance common growth and development."

High on the agenda is Beijing's multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project, which is also known as the "new Silk Road."

The trade infrastructure project, announced by President Xi in 2013, envisions the construction of railways, roads and ports across the globe to connect China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

The plan, however, has many critics, who believe the project could bury African nations under debt to China, calling it Beijing's "debt trap."

Beijing, however, explains that loans provided under the Belt and Road initiative are not a "trap," arguing that when it comes to "the debt problem, there really is not that much Chinese debt in Africa."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the current chair of the African Union, has also rejected the "debt trap" allegations, saying they are attempts to discourage African-Chinese interactions.

"Another perspective... is that those criticizing China on debt give too little," he told the official Xinhua news agency.

China has already provided many countries in Asia and Africa with billions of dollars in aid and loans for roads, railways, ports and other major infrastructure projects.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Xi reiterated the pledge to provide $60 billion in financial support to Africa in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies

China will also expand its imports from Africa, especially for non-resources products, and will facilitate African financial institutions' bond issuances in China, Xi added.

The Asian country has been Africa's biggest trading partner over the last decade. It has been investing $3 billion a year in Africa over the past few years.

According to its economic data, trade between China and African countries rose 14 percent last year to $170 billion– four times ­Africa's trade with the United States.

Speaking at a business forum ahead of the summit, Xi said Chinese funds are not for "vanity projects" in Africa but are to build infrastructure that can remove bottlenecks in the continent's development.

"Inadequate infrastructure is believed to be the biggest bottleneck to Africa's development," he added.

President Xi meets UN chief

The forum is also being attended by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who arrived in Beijing for his third trip to the country on Sunday.

Guterres met with President Xi ahead of the summit the same day, when he described China-Africa relations as a "central part of South-South co–operation."

He praised Beijing for its commitment to supporting "multilateralism."

Guterres said the UN is willing to strengthen dialog and cooperation with China to build a rule-based multi-polar world and encourage other countries to participate in the Belt and Road initiative.

Xi made no direct mention of the trade tensions with the United States, referring instead to "unilateralism and protectionism rearing its head."

"We are willing to use practical actions to drive all parties to jointly adhere to trade liberalization and facilitation and build an open world economy," Xi added.

The US president has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of imports from China, accusing Beijing of intellectual property theft, obstructing US businesses, and being responsible for America's 375-billion-dollar trade deficit with China.

China, which has also imposed its retaliatory tariffs on US goods, has blasted American unilateralism and filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Washington's moves.

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