Talks held in Pretoria between South Africa and China led to significant outcomes to boost trade, investment and job creation.

This was said by South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel, following talks last night and this morning with Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao.

The talks were held during an official session of the Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETC) between the two countries, and focused on increasing trade and changing the composition of trade, so that South Africa exports more manufactured and value-added products to China.  Two-way trade between the two countries last year was in excess of R900 billion in 2022 and Chinese investment in South Africa is now close to R200 billion.

The JETC was held in preparation for a planned State Visit by President Xi Jinping of the People’s republic of China, to South Africa on 22 August 2023.

The JETC discussion noted the extraordinary progress China had made in green technologies, including electric vehicles. The two Ministers reviewed progress made in developing Memoranda of Understanding on the green economy, the blue (oceans) economy, digital trade, investment and Special economic Zones.

“China is South Africa’s largest trading partner. The talks focused on ways to expand South Africa’s export of both manufactured and agricultural products to China, raise Chinese levels of investment in South African industrial activities and increase the number of trade missions between the two countries. The two parties agreed to address customs fraud and under-invoicing in a determined manner. China agreed to partner South Africa’s efforts to industrialise further and to transition to a greener manufacturing economy,” Minister Ebrahim Patel said after the talks.

“Since 1994, South Africa and China have been working tirelessly to deepen their political and economic relationship. In the first phase we focused on trade. We successfully grew our exchange of goods to a level where today China is South Africa’s  largest trading partner in the world. Today our two-way trade equals more than R900 billion,” said Minister Patel.

He added that the second phase of the South Africa-China relationship saw investment becoming more important. He said China’s investment in South Africa today is close to R200 billion in sectors such as mining, telecommunications, and manufacturing, producing automotives, electronics and household goods.

“The third and new phase of deepening our economic relationship is where we want to shift to now. This is the one that will support deeper industrialisation, and green industries in South Africa. Our levels of trade are very significant, however, the composition of our trade needs to change, It has been focused principally on raw materials. We now need to shift to greater levels of industrial exports of manufactured goods,” noted Minister Patel.

He added that he has spoken extensively about the new shift with Minister Wang during their meeting yesterday and agreed that this can be done through a combination of efforts. These include high levels of exports promotion of the South African goods; Chinese inward buying missions to South Africa; and increased Chinese investment in the manufacturing industry in South Africa.

The two countries discussed global growth and trade developments.

“Our meeting takes place in a different world to when we last met – a more polarising world, in which talk of decoupling and friend-shoring seeks to reverse the gains of an open global trade and investment system. It is our belief that these pressures will ultimately cause humanity great grief and come at a cost to societies,” Minister Patel said in the opening session of the JETC.

“The history of the past thousand years and more has been one of greater human interaction across the borders of nations and civilisations, often peaceful, sometimes through conquest. Greater peaceful contact, trade, exchanges of technologies, and investment flows have improved human welfare and created many of the positive features of our modern world. It is a poorer world if we only trade with friends. Trade and travel enhances human welfare and it also creates friendships and understanding,”  he said.

“I have taken Minister Wang on a short tour of the dtic campus and told him the story of the kingdom of Mapungubwe that inspired the campus. More than one thousand years ago a prosperous people here in southern Africa, in the northern part of our country, had a large urban settlement in which the manufactured goods from metals, and from where they traded with other parts of the world,” Minister Patel said.

“This trade illustrates two points: first, the importance of Africa’s own trade networks and trading centres, as goods moved from a settlement on the banks of Limpopo to the great trading posts of Sofala in Mozambique, which in turn was one of a number of great trading cities of Mombasa, Mogadishu, Zanzibar and Kilwa; and second, that people in the south traded with China, India and Arabia, selling ivory and gold, buying products from elsewhere, with surviving artefacts of Chinese porcelain and Persian glass beads. Mapungubwe’s rise coincided with the Song dynasty in China. Subsequently, during the Ming dynasty from 1405 to 1433, Admiral Zheng He travelled in a number of peaceful exhibitions to the east coast of Africa, promoting trade, not colonialism or conquest,” he said.

“Since 1994 South Africa and China have deepened our economic relationship,” he said.

The talks included the two Ambassadors, the Commissioner Edward Kieswetter of SARS and Ayabonga Cawe of ITAC, Deputy Ministers Gina and Majola and a senior Chinese delegation.

The parties agreed to a stepped-up set of activities in the next 6 months to boost economic relations and finalise and implement agreed measures.

The Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel, welcoming China’s Minister of Commerce, Mr Wang Wentao at the dtic Campus in Pretoria for the South Africa-China Joint Economic and Trade Committee meeting.


Bongani Lukhele – Director: Media Relations
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Issued by: The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)
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