Chinese trade facility for Zimbabwe

HARARE China has extended an 80 million yuan (approximately US$12 million) facility to Zimbabwe to boost trade and economic cooperation between the struggling southern African economy and the worlds second largest economy.

Zimbabwean Industry Minister Welshman Ncube told journalists that the facility would be extended under three broad based economic agreements that representatives of the two countries signed on Monday.

Visiting Chinese commerce deputy minister Zhong Shan signed on behalf of his government while Finance Minister Tendai Biti signed for Zimbabwe.

We had a bilateral meeting with the Chinese deputy minister of commerce in the morning, Ncube said. We signed three broad based agreements through the Minister of Finance, we received an 80 million yen grant and China has agreed to second agricultural experts to the country.

Ncube told journalists that the three areas of interest covered by the agreements included increasing trade volumes between Beijing and Zimbabwe, deepening economic and technical cooperation and agricultural exchange programmes.

Last year, cumulative trade volumes between Zimbabwe and China stood at US$520 million.

He added that the two countries also resolved to increase trade volumes. Our trade with China last year amounted to US$520 million. Our objective is to push trade to a billion dollars.

Ncube said the Chinese delegation also expressed keen interest towards investing in the local diamond sector.

It is estimated that Zimbabwe has potential to satisfy about 25 percent of the world diamond demand.

We also discussed the possibility of Chinese investment in our diamond sector, Ncube said, noting that investment would be centred on value addition and new mining projects.

China has emerged as one of Zimbabwes most important political allies and trading partners since 2000 when President Robert Mugabe adopted his Look East policy.

The policy is premised on the need to find new trading partners and markets after traditional investors from Western nations turned against Harare in protest over Mugabes human rights abuses, repression against political opponents and violent land-grab programme.

The Look East policy specifically targets investors from Muslim and Asian nations and in exchange Zimbabwe has promised minerals including diamonds and gold and prime land to the investors, resulting in Harare penning several agreements mainly with China, Russia and Iran.

But critics say there have been little results because the policy failed to attract serious and meaningful investments to shore up Zimbabwes struggling economy chiefly because the crisis-hit nation had failed to meet its side of the deal.

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