|Ministerial meeting of China-Africa Cooperation Forum held in Beijing|
BEIJING, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Ministers and representatives from China and 48 African countries held a ministerial meeting here Friday to make final preparations for a high-profile summit due to open Saturday.
Participants discussed and passed an action plan, which lays out cooperative programs between China and Africa from 2007 to 2009 under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
The meeting, third of its kind since 2000, also deliberated on a draft declaration and decided to submit it to the FOCAC Beijing Summit, a landmark event which leaders from 48 African countries that have diplomatic relations with China are to participate in.
The declaration is expected to be passed at the summit, which is themed on "friendship, peace, cooperation and development".
The two documents will give guiding principles for the development of China-Africa relations and their future cooperation,sources with China's Foreign Ministry said.
Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi extolled the 50-year-long China-Africa relations at the opening ceremony of the meeting, saying that the FOCAC, which was set up in 2000, is a key strategic move by China and Africa to face up to the challenges in the new century, promote traditional friendship and enhance cooperation.
Wu said the FOCAC has launched a series of cooperative plans and become a key platform and effective mechanism for collective dialogue and pragmatic cooperation.
"The FOCAC and its development will provide useful experience for South-South cooperation," Wu said.
The Vice Premier said the two sides should always instill new vitality into the Forum, and draw up plan for future cooperation and carry out follow-up activities to turn the Forum into a pacesetter in promoting China-Africa all-round friendship.
Meanwhile, "we should, with an eye on new developments, fully tap cooperation potential and draw on each other's strengths to broaden and upgrade cooperation," she said.
Wu also called on the two sides to enhance coordination to ensure their cooperation to move forward smoothly.
"The two sides should give full play to the role of the Forum as a mechanism of collective dialogue, keep close consultation, develop new consensus, closely study new trends in cooperation, expand common interests and appropriately address new problems arising in the course of cooperation, so as to turn the Forum intoan effective platform for safeguarding the common interests of thetwo sides," she said.
The meeting was jointly presided over by Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopia's Minister of Finance and Economic Development Sufian Ahmed. Ethiopia is the FOCAC's co-chair country.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Seyoum said China has given Africa a lot of support in the fight against colonialism and for independence and scrupulously observed principles of international law governing inter-state relations.
Seyoum said that is the reason "why this forum has made such progress and why on the African side there are full commitments tomaking the process a resounding success."
He said the forum's elevation to a summit level "is a demonstration of the commitment of both sides to the further expansion of the cooperation between Africa and China...It is an affirmation of the conviction on the part of both that the consolidation of the process is in the interest of both China and Africa."
Seyoum said since the ministerial forum was launched six years ago, China and Africa have carried out cooperation in areas including trade, investment and human resources, said Seyoum. "It has also created close coordination between the two sides on international issues."
"The last three years have witnessed an accelerated growth in the volume of trade between Africa and China. The potential in this area is enormous," he said.
Seyoum also encouraged more "people-to-people" relations between Africa and China, saying "there is no better way ensuring the sustainability of a partnership than ensuring that it is rooted in people-to-people relations."
Trade volume between Africa and China rocketed to 39.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2005 after breaking the mark of 10 billion dollars in 2000.
Under the framework of the Forum, China has canceled debt of 10.5 billion yuan (1.3 billion U.S. dollars) incurred by 31 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and least developed countries in Africa, and has given zero-tariff treatment to 190 categories of import commodities from 29 African countries.
During the second ministerial conference in Addis Ababa three years ago, China pledged to help train 10,000 professionals for Africa. The training program will be completed as scheduled this year.
At the upcoming Beijing Summit, the leaders are expected to focus on economic cooperation, training of professionals and business investment, according to sources with the Foreign Ministry.
The objective of the Summit is to build a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchange, the sources said.
The fourth ministerial meeting of the FOCAC will be held in 2009 in Egypt.