Massive jump in Zim-Sino trade

HARARE - Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang yesterday met President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, declaring a massive spike in trade between Beijing and Harare.

He said two-way trade with Zimbabwe had increased by nearly 90 percent in a year to hit a record $1 billion, highlighting a trend that could be helping transform the southern African country’s economy.

Yang said economic ties with Harare had recovered from a dip and would now grow even faster.

Yang, on his first overseas tour as vice premier, held talks with Mugabe and Tsvangirai before travelling to Manicaland Province to review resettlement projects undertaken by Anjin Investments — the biggest miner operating in Zimbabwe’s controversial Marange diamond fields.

Speaking after meeting Tsvangirai at Munhumutapa Building yesterday, Yang said trade was rising.

“In last May you paid a visit to China and had a meeting with (then) premier Wen Jiabao,” he said referring to the May 2012 meeting held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

“That visit contributed to the development of our two countries. We speak highly of that effort.”

“And in the past year since your visit, we have witnessed new progress in our business cooperation.

“Last year, for the first time ever, trade volumes exceeded $1 billion. We are heartened to see that in the first quarter of this year, our bilateral trade has already reached $570 million, a rise of 89,4 percent.”

Chinese investment in Zimbabwe is also on the rise and infrastructure projects are underway, bringing  job opportunities to local communities,” Yang said.

He said cultural and educational exchanges have also deepened.

“During my visit this time, we will provide new assistance to Zimbabwe on behalf of the Chinese government including the provision of interest-free loans, and we will also sign agreements on agriculture and irrigation and other projects,” Yang said.

Critics of the relationship accuse China of failing to pay local labour adequately, flooding markets with poor quality goods, and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in diamond-rich Zimbabwe.

“What I want to emphasise here is that Chinese companies that are here in Zimbabwe want to make money,” Yang said.

“At the time of my arrival here yesterday, I had a meeting with Chinese companies and I told the representatives of the Chinese companies here in Zimbabwe — it is important that companies make money in a moral manner and we should not make profits out of immorality in Africa.”

He spoke as Anjin — a joint venture between the government’s Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and China’s State-owned Anhui Foreign and Economic Construction Company —has been blighted by labour disputes over poor pay.

Anjin employs 1 500 Zimbabweans and more than 200 Chinese.

Tsvangirai said he envisaged good character of Chinese business operations in the country.

“We welcome foreign direct investment,” Tsvangirai said.

“What we want to say is that like all businesses, we want to maintain acceptable labour standards and acceptable business practices.

“That’s all we require. And I want to assure you that it’s not an accusation.” - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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