President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing the media after the BRICS Summit ended on Friday, said South Africa would not be bullied into stopping doing business with China.
Ramaphosa slammed the trade war in which the US slapped China with tariffs on $500 billion (R6.57 trillion) in imports, saying it was incompatible with the World Trade Organisation rules.
Beijing has implemented retaliatory measures on US imports. Ramaphosa, responding to a question on whether South Africa did not risk riling the US for its support of China, said the BRICS countries were independent and could choose whoever they wanted to associate with.
He said China was the second largest economy in the world and had a lot to offer in support of emerging economies. China, the world’s second largest economy, last week committed to invest $147bn in the South African economy.
The investment was announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to South Africa, where he also attended the three-day 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. Chinese investors also reportedly signed an agreement to build a $10bn metallurgical complex in South Africa, with construction expected to start next year. The complex was still in the planning stage and envisaged building a stainless steel plant.
China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for the last nine years, with bilateral trade reportedly reaching $39.2bn in 2017. By the end of last year, Chinese investment in South Africa exceeding $25bn, according to Chinese ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian. President Ramaphosa said that South Africa would co-operate with all the bloc’s member countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
He said that the principles of solidarity, working together and mutual benefit underpinned their commitment to BRICS.
“We feel comfortable working together. Our political orientation is very similar. We will continue with the level of co-operation. “You could not want a better forum of association than BRICS,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the emerging countries had emerged as an important bloc in world affairs and in the global South. He characterised BRICS as a club of countries that were charging ahead to promote the growth of their economies. On the bilateral trade with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ramaphosa said that they discussed a number of issues on co-operation in mining, among others. The Russians also wanted to know South Africa’s position on nuclear. He said he gave Putin a “clear straightforward answer” that the country was pursuing a mixed energy policy including coal, renewables, hydro and nuclear.”