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Speech by Mr Morne Marx, Consul Political at the Progressive Business Forum - Hangzhou Business Seminar

29 May 2014

Mr Xie Chongming,
DDG of Hangzhou Municipal Foreign Affairs Office Mr He Jun,
Deputy Chairman of Hangzhou Chamber of Commerce Mr Wang Bin,
DDG Commerce Bureau of Qiantang Economic Development Zone Mr Wu Jian,
DDG of Hangzhou International Trading Bureau Mr Luo Wei,
Municipal Foreign Affairs,
International Communication Centre Mr Daryl Swanepoel,
Convenor of the PBF Esteemed members of the Progressive Business Forum
Ladies and Gentleman.

This year is the 16th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of South Africa and the People`s Republic of China. It is also the Year of South Africa in China, as it was declared last year by President Jacob Zuma and President Xi Jinping. They furthermore declared 2015 to be the Year of China in South Africa.

So it is indeed a great pleasure and honour for me to join you at this business seminar. It signifies the ever growing and strengthening ties between the business sectors of our respective countries.

It is part of the greater relationship between South Africa and China that encompass all spheres including political, economic, social, cultural and academic. The Eastern Cape and Zhejiang Provinces have a twinning agreement and the City of Nelson Mandela Bay and Ningbo are Sister Cities. We also see the manifestation of cultural, academic and social interaction on the ground. There are currently 147 South African students studying at various facilities in Zhejiang alone. It is not hard to imagine that from these initial student interactions, future business and even political relationships and cooperation will form.

Our two countries also continue to strengthen their coordination and cooperation in international affairs, collaborating in various platforms, including the UN, BRICS, the G20, BASIC and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) seeking a more balanced and equitable global political and economic system.

Esteemed guests,

In 2010, China became South Africa`s largest trading partner, in terms of both imports and exports. China will continue to play an important role in South Africa`s development.

Nevertheless, we should heed our leaders` calls to move towards a more equitable balance of trade and we look to you, the business sector to drive economic and trade cooperation for mutual benefit and in the interests of the people of both countries. What we are working towards is a more balanced and sustainable trade relationship with China.

This is the driving factor in why we are here today in Hangzhou. Zhejiang has the 4th largest economy in China. We view this province as extremely important to our economic relations with the PRC. In 2013 Zhejiang`s GDP stood at RMB3 756billion (US$606 billion) and a growth rate of 8.2%. Total foreign trade amounted to US$ 312.2 billion in 2012 with exports totaling US$ 224.6 billion and imports US$ 87.7 billion. Zhejiang accounted for 11% of China`s total exports in 2012.

Prominent sectors include agriculture, textiles, air-separation equipment, steam turbines, boilers, motorcycle and auto components, electric power tools, petrochemical industry and fine chemical industry, pharmaceutical machinery and pharmaceuticals, and medical instruments.

In its region South Africa is an economic powerhouse with a vast amount of natural resources and a wide range of excellent export quality manufactured products, in the agro-processing, chemicals, plastics, capital equipment, paper and pulp, aluminium and automotive sectors. We can therefore already see potential links between the prominent sectors of Zhejiang and the South African manufacturing sector.

We would like to see investment in processing and promoting value-added activities within close proximity to the source of raw material. Beneficiation has been identified as a key driver of economic growth and the creation of jobs. We are moving towards exporting higher-value finished products rather than commodities. Beneficiation lends itself to job creation, technology advancement, skills transfer and research and development.

Furthermore, South Africa has excellent and proven skills in financial, banking and insurance services, and we are eager to share our skills in this regard. Now, Zhejiang has long been known for its entrepreneurship. We would like nothing more than to see this reputation be put to work through investing in South Africa.

To the South African business community, we don`t need to elaborate on the huge business opportunities that exist in China. This market is contiguously growing as the Chinese middle class expands at a rapid rate. In Zhejiang the per capita GDP reached RMB68 462 last year, or more than US$11 054. Zhejiang`s major imports consist of electrical and mechanical products, high- technology products, plastics in primary form and farm products. Again, we can see definite potential markets for South African exports.

Ladies and gentleman, before I conclude, Zhejiang is one of seven areas under the jurisdiction of the South African Consulate-General in Shanghai. The others being the Provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu, Fujian, Anhui, Guangdong, and the municipality of Shanghai.

I would like to convey Consulate-General Thabo Thage`s assurance that he and his entire staff are committed to provide continued support and cooperation for South African businesses operating in Zhejiang, as well as current and prospective Zhejiang companies doing business with South Africa. I therefore urge you to get in contact with the Consulate should you require assistance or information.

I wish you every success in your business engagements and networking sessions here today. May you strengthen existing relations and establish new relations that will provide our respective citizens with the opportunities and benefits they so rightly deserve

Xie xie.

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