Zimbabwe, China Sign $585 Million in Deals

China supports Zimbabwe's equity law, which seeks to give locals a majority stake in foreign-owned companies, but asked for protection for Chinese firms.

Zimbabwe, China Sign $585 Million in Deals
China supports Zimbabwe's equity law, which seeks to give locals a majority stake in foreign-owned companies, but asked for protection for Chinese firms.

Aimed at reviving the southern African country's health, mining and agriculture sectors, Zimbabwe and China on March 21 signed a raft of agreements worth $585 million. "We acknowledge the efforts by the China Development Bank to engage government in supporting Zimbabwe's most critical areas of energy, mining, transport, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism," said Zimbabwean Vice President Joice Mujuru.

The signing ceremony was also attended by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, who is in Zimbabwe on an official visit. Wang pledged support for Zimbabwe's fledgling economic recovery since the launch of the power-sharing deal. And he promised to lobby for the lifting of Western sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle.

"China will continue to support and grow your economy. China will continue to impress on countries that have imposed sanctions to lift them at early date," he said.

He also said China supported Zimbabwe's equity law, which seeks to give locals a majority stake in foreign-owned companies, but asked for protection for Chinese firms. "We understand and appreciate the indigenization policy, but we ask you to protect the legitimate rights of Chinese businesses," he said.

The agreements included $342 million for an agricultural machinery scheme, $99.5 million for medicine and $144 million for the rehabilitation of sewers in the capital, Harare.

The two countries were also discussing a $102-million loan from China's Export-Import Bank.

Zimbabwe and China have political ties dating back to before Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, when Beijing provided arms and training to guerrillas fighting British colonial rule.

China has also been pivotal in protecting Zimbabwe at the United Nations. In 2008, China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution seeking sanctions against Harare.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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