COMESA looks forward to cementing ties with China
LUSAKA, March 16 (Xinhuanet) — The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretary General Erastus Mwencha said Wednesday his organization is looking forward to strengthening its relations with China, particularly in the area of trade and investment.
He made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on his planned visit to China in April.
Mwencha described China as an all-weather friend of Africa.
"China has been with Africa for a long time. They stood with Africa even during the struggle for independence. China has also got through similar things with African countries. It is close to our heart. That’s why we want to do more business with China," he said.
Over the years, China has been participating in the COMESA region in various ways, investing in the area and supporting member countries’ development, said Mwencha.
The secretary general said China is becoming an economic power and that economic cooperation between China and COMESA will benefit both sides.
"China is a major consumer of some raw materials we found in COMESA, like copper and oil. And we believe China has got the technology that we could be looking at, like in telecommunications,industry and agribusiness," he said.
The secretary general said China and COMESA countries share similar views on many issues of trade. The two sides can cooperatein the framework of the World Trade Organization in deciding the global trade architecture.
He identified infrastructure, telecommunications, agriculture, tourism, hydropower as some of the areas where China and COMESA could cooperate.
More importantly, he said he will be discussing the possibility of reaching trade and investment with Chinese officials during his visit.
He declined to elaborate on details of the trade agreement, but implied that it will be something like the Economic Partnership Agreement being negotiated by COMESA with the European Union or the Africa Growth Opportunity Act of the United States.
"With China we need to understand how we can work together in the area of economic cooperation, whether we talk of trade agreement or some other system that will be established. But in our case, we wish to have some trade agreement where we can identify specific products and how we trade," said Mwencha.
Launched in December 1994, COMESA is one of the most successful economic groupings in Africa. Its 19 member countries boast a total population of 350 million and a combined gross domestic product of around 190 billion US dollars.