By Lerato Matheka
MASERU — The Chinese ambassador to Lesotho on Tuesday said China is willing to allow at least 95 percent of goods from Lesotho to be imported into China duty free.
Professor Gao Deyi made the remarks at a seminar to mark the 10th anniversary of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) which seeks to boost relations between China and Africa.
Deyi said the proposal to institute the duty-free provision was meant to increase Lesotho’s trade volumes with China.
“We are willing to assist Lesotho to export 95 percent of its goods duty free so that Lesotho can increase its trade volume with China,” Dayo said.
He said at least 20 businessmen from Lesotho exhibited their products at the World Expo in Shanghai, China, this year.
He said Lesotho’s exports to China were currently valued at a lowly US$7 million per annum.
Deyi said China was currently exploring ways of setting up a joint venture project with locals to manufacture pharmaceutical products and aloe creams and other skin-care products.
The Chinese ambassador said relations between his country and Africa were strong and had proved mutually beneficial for the two.
“China and Lesotho have been sincere and close friends over the past years. With mutual understanding and political trust deepening, fields of co-operation expanding, bilateral relations have reached a new height,” Deyi said.
“The foundation of China-Africa relations is an unprecedented event in both its nature and the number of participating states which not only demonstrate great dynamic vitality of the relations between China and African countries but also the strong desire and firm resolve to meet the challenges of the new century.”
Critics have however sometimes described China’s foray into the continent as a new “Scramble for Africa” largely driven by the desire to get raw materials.
But Deyi firmly rejected that assertion.
He said China’s relations with Africa were based on equality and mutual benefit and was in direct contrast to Western colonialism.
“It would be unfair for some Western media to address China’s practice as neo-colonialism,” Deyi said.
“For decades the development of Sino-African relations has been firmly based on equality, mutual benefit and reciprocity which is fundamentally different from that of Western colonialists,” he said.
Lesotho’s government secretary, Tlohang Sekhamane, told the seminar that relations between China and Lesotho date back to the 1960s.
“Lesotho’s relationship with China dates back to the time when China was still a poor country and up to now the two countries are still friends.
“Lesotho has seen infrastructural development from the Chinese and we can look at the Parliament building being completed, the State Library and the Convention Centre,” he said.
Sekhamane said the relationship had also benefited Lesotho in exposing local businessmen to international markets.
“Lesotho is now better known for what it has to offer on the market after the opportunity Basotho businessmen received from the China Expo,” he said.
He said the two countries’ relations go beyond issues of the economy.
“We have had Chinese cultural troops exchanging cultural activities and cultivating good relations that we already have.”
“This is the time for Lesotho to take advantage of relations between the two countries to increase its trade volumes,” Sekhamane said.