Africa, Caribbean, Pacific defend trade with China

Nqobile Tshili, Sunday News Correspondent
AFRICAN, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) have defended their trade with China dismissing claims that the Asian country wants to exploit the continent of its resources.

The ACP was responding to criticisms by representatives of the European Union at the 45th Session of the African Caribbean and Pacific Parliamentary Assembly (ACP) and Inter-sessional meetings of the ACP — EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly held in Brussels in Belgium in March.

According to a report on the meetings presented in Parliament last week by Masvingo Central legislator Dr Daniel Shumba, the ACP countries maintained that trade with the Asian economic giant was more sustainable contrary to the EU aid which involves cumbersome drawdown procedures.

The ACP countries also highlighted in the heated debate that it was the sovereign decision for Member States to co-operate bilaterally with China. The criticism on the Sino-Africa trade relations comes at a time when the EU is engaged on post Cotonou negotiations with ACP countries to adopt a new framework on trade.

Since the turn of the millennium African countries turned to China as one of its largest trading partner, a shift from the former colonial masters who had enjoyed siphoning resources for little benefits to the continent.

The European countries have felt the pinch on the shift in focus on investment partners by Africa and suggested that the Sino-ACP trade relations be put on the agenda of the joint sitting. During the meetings, Dr Shumba reported, a Belgian academic Professor Jonathan Holslag presented a biased presentation on Sino-ACP trade relations which he said was taking the ACP countries back to the days of colonialism.

“He opined that China was engaged in an unequal partnership with Africa, with African countries being indebted to China to the tune of $150 billion, adding that African countries had failed to generate adequate resources to repay its debt,” reported Dr Shumba to Parliament.

“He warned Africa’s leadership to avoid the mistakes of the past of siphoning raw materials but to seek development of its manufacturing base. He claimed that unlike China, Europe presented long-term, equal and sustainable partnerships.”

Dr Shumba said ACP Parliamentarians were quick to dismiss his assertion noting that it was cumbersome to deal with EU.

“ACP Parliamentarians dismissed Professor Holslag assertions that did not present the realities of China’s operations in Africa. They outlined the projects that had been implemented by China in their respective countries and lamented the lengthy and cumbersome procedures for drawing down EU aid and the unequal Africa-EU partnership,” said Dr Shumba.

“They argued that the topic should not have been included on the agenda for discussions in such a forum but could have been a matter of introspection by the EU-side alone. They stressed the sovereignty and the freedom of African States to pursue partnerships.”

The stance by the ACP Parliamentarians dove-tail with President Mugabe’s address in 2015 at the summit for the Forum on China Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The President, who at the time was serving as African Union chairperson, blasted as distorted, claims by Africa’s detractors that the continent’s relations with China were based on the Asian country’s appetite for raw minerals.

Instead, President Mugabe said Africa’s ties with China go deeper than that and the Asian country was doing more for the continent than its former colonisers. He said China has become Africa’s premier investment and trading partner, a trend which will scale up Africa-China trade volumes to $400 billion by 2020 from $220 billion in 2014.