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Zuma in China for talks with Hu

BEIJING, Aug 24 – South African President Jacob Zuma was in China on Tuesday for talks with his counterpart Hu Jintao aimed at broadening the relationship between Beijing and Africa\’s biggest economy.

The visit is seen as an opportunity for the two countries to explore opportunities to expand their already sizeable trade ties — and also a chance for two emerging powers to solidify their strategic partnership.

Zuma — who will visit Beijing and Shanghai during his three-day trip — will be the guest of honour at a formal welcome ceremony with Hu at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday, followed by talks and a signing ceremony.

The two countries are due to sign a "comprehensive strategic partnership" agreement as well as cooperation deals in the areas of mineral resources, transportation and environment management, according to Zuma\’s office.

Bilateral trade — which has been expanding since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1998 — last year totalled about 16 billion dollars, according to figures from both countries.

"Trade statistics with China continue to reflect the potential that still exists for expanding the commercial relationship," the South African foreign ministry said before the visit.

China, which last year overtook the United States to become South Africa\’s largest export destination, mainly imports raw materials such as iron ore, as well as iron and steel, to fuel its booming economy.

Beijing also has unveiled a series of major investments since ploughing 5.5 billion dollars into South Africa\’s Standard Bank nearly three years ago.

In May, Chinese companies reached a deal to build a 217-million-dollar cement plant and invest 877 million dollars to take control of a small South African mining company and build a new platinum mine.

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South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on Tuesday told a forum of business leaders in Beijing that his country\’s exports were too dependent on primary goods and that he hoped Beijing could buy more "value-added" goods.

Zuma, who is accompanied by a number of key ministers and business leaders, is due to meet Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior Chinese officials on Wednesday. He was due to visit the World Expo in Shanghai on Thursday.

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