Wen Jiabao

Wen kicks off African tour with Egypt deals

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 June, 2006, 12:00am

China and Egypt yesterday signed a series of agreements both sides believe will enhance bilateral relations, following Premier Wen Jiabao's arrival in Cairo and the start of his eight-day African visit.

The wide-ranging agreements include co-operation in exploring for phosphorous ore, a raw material used in the manufacture of fertiliser, and a pact between China's powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Egypt's oil authorities to strengthen the development of oil and natural gas projects.

'China and Egypt are facing new development opportunities,' Mr Wen said on arriving yesterday afternoon at Cairo's military airport, where he was greeted by Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

'[We will] work hard to enhance our two countries' strategic relations that benefit our two peoples and the development of regional and world peace.'

Mr Wen was then whisked off to the official residence of Mr Nazif, where he held talks with his Egyptian counterpart, before the two sides signed 11 agreements.

Later, Mr Wen met Chinese nationals and embassy staff in Egypt. Addressing them, Mr Wen said he kicked off his tour in Egypt because of its symbolic importance.

'The establishment of Sino-Egyptian relations 50 years ago played an important role in facilitating China's relations with Arabian and African countries,' he said.

Egypt was the first African nation to recognise China when they began diplomatic relations on May 30, 1956.

To mark the 50th anniversary, a celebration was held at the Great Pyramid of Giza last night, following a state dinner.

During the gala show, Mr Wen presented awards to five Egyptians for their contribution to Sino-Egyptian relations.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade between the two countries jumped by 36.1 per cent to a record US$2.14 billion last year, mostly to China's benefit with export revenues of US$1.94 billion.

China has invested US$220 million in Egypt. The African trip is seen as an opportunity for China to secure trade deals, tapping into Africa's resources.

Mr Wen said China was grateful for Africa's help during 'critical moments' and it cherished the friendship with the continent. In return, China has invested more than 44 billion yuan in about 900 projects, he said.

He pledged that an agricultural demonstration centre and a village school would be built in each of the seven countries he was visiting. China would also donate anti-malaria drugs.

According to Mr Wen, China has sent over 16,000 people with medical training to Africa, and over 18,000 African students have studied in China.

Mr Wen will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the head of the People's Assembly of Egypt, the lower house of parliament, today. Mr Mubarak is expected to travel to China before the end of this year.

Mr Wen is scheduled to leave for Ghana today.