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Unchecked Chinese counterfeits infringing intellectual property could poison bilateral trade relations

Chinese Embassy Economic & Commercial Counselor Mr. Ma Lianxing is appealing to Batswana to report Chinese counterfeit and inferior imports infringing intellectual property entering the country. Lianxing said the appeal made on behalf of the Chinese Government called on the Botswana media and Botswana citizens to inform the embassy through a hotline. This would reflect the China’s recent campaign launch entitled: “special treatment against (Chinese) counterfeit and inferior goods infringing the intellectual property exported to Africa.” The campaign would also safeguard longstanding (a combined total of 64years of) bilateral trade and diplomatic relations, established between Botswana and China.

The Economic & Commercial Counselor stressed: “Hereby, we … appeal to the Botswana media and Botswana citizens who find the counterfeit and inferior goods coming from China to inform us through our hotline: (+267) 390 0337. We (in turn) will report to the relevant Chinese Government departments to take effective measures. It has been our pleasure to see a healthier Botswana market where more Batswana enjoying quality made-in-China products.”

In an interview held in Gaborone recently Lianxing told Echo the infringement of intellectual property rights through wholesale importation of counterfeit and inferior Chinese goods penetrating the Botswana market would reverse the benefits made since 1982 when Botswana and China signed bilateral trade agreements. For instance, during the first 10 months of the 2010 financial year, the trade volume had risen to US $305 million (P2 billion) from a paltry US $30 000 to US $50 000 (P195 000 to P325 000) in 1982. Since 2000 the bilateral trade volume showed a similar trend rising 31% from US $11.4 million to US $360 million (P74.1 million to P2.4 billion) in 2008. However, in 2009 the trade volume dropped to US $231 million because of the adverse impact of the global financial crisis.

He said after the establishment of Botswana/Chinese diplomatic relations in 1975, cordial bilateral relations foreshadowed the simultaneous growth in economic and trade cooperation. With the dramatic increase in bilateral trade volumes witnessed during subsequent decades, Chinese aid and investment, the scope and scale of mutual benefit cooperation to Botswana have likewise expanded.

As an extension of the diplomatic protocol, China provided funds to Botswana for 34 successive years in forms of grants, interest-free and concessional loans, beginning with the first interest-free loan in 1976, he said. Botswana had utilized the funds for the renovation and upgrading of 587 km of railway, construction of more than 200 km of phases I & II of Letlhakeng/Kang road, building of 717 residential houses, HIV/AIDS Prevention & Treatment Centre and two primary schools in Maun and Serowe. The construction of the Gaborone Multi-purpose Youth Centre which is nearing completion, serves as a good example of how Chinese funds are being put to prudent use in the country.

Lianxing said the Chinese Government continues to be the bulk logistics supplier of all sorts of equipment and material to Botswana: since 2007, 1 batch of medical equipment, 2 batches of office equipment, 7 sets of videoconference equipment alongside the technical training of 40 local support and operational personnel.

Technical assistance to Botswana started as early as 1978, and from 1991 to 2002, China assigned more than 120 agricultural technical staff to undertake a land surveying and planning project; from 2009 to 2010, 3 Senior Agricultural Experts to provide free technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture; 12 Youth Volunteers to the Ministries of Youth, Sport & Culture and Local Government, he said.

“Since 1980, China has consecutively dispatched to Botswana12 batches of Medical Teams totaling about 300 medical personnel, under a bilateral agreement. It is worth mentioning that the Government of China paid all the salaries starting from the 12th contingent of the Medical Team. From 1999 to 2009, 293 Batswana received Chinese sponsorship to participate in seminars and technical training in China meant for government officials.

“According to incomplete statistics, China’s direct investment to Botswana amounted to US $26.64 million (P171.6 million) in 2009 an 89.5% increase from US $14.06 million (P91.4 million) in 2008. By the end of 2009, the total investment reached US $73.57 million (P478.3 million)”, he said.

Lianxing said in 1988, China State Construction & Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the first Chinese construction company entered the Botswana market. Since then 23 Chinese registered enterprises have been operating in Botswana in the fields of construction, communications, power generation, water conservation, transport, mineral prospecting, textiles & fabrication, trade, to name some.

The Chinese Enterprise Association (CEA) was established as an umbrella body for Chinese Government businesses in April 2009 in Botswana to further enhance bilateral ties between the two countries. So-to-speak, Chinese enterprises have been conducting business with their counterparts in Botswana on the mutual benefit, win-win and common development principle, contributing greatly to infrastructural development, including the technical upgrading and promoting and uplifting of living standards.

Again in the same year, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) associated with the Stanbic Bank Group signed an agreement with the Botswana Power Corporation to provide a loan of US $845 million (P5.5 billion). He added since this was the first time a Chinese commercial bank had provided a commercial loan to Botswana, it marked the beginning of a new era of bilateral financial cooperation. Though Botswana and China equally suffered from the global financial crisis, the Chinese Government has shown dedication to honour its commitment to Botswana because of the strong long term friendly relations binding their economies. For example, in November 2009, the Government of China announced 8 new measures for pragmatic China/Africa cooperation at the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (COFCAC). Under the COFCAC Botswana/China bilateral agreement, China will build a primary school, solar energy and biogas system projects.

Lianxing said furthermore, China will provide US $10 billion (P65 billion)-concessional loan to support financial institutions set up special purpose loans targeting African small & medium sized enterprises (SME’s), Botswana included. “Three years down the line, China will allocate US $6.5 million (P9.8 million) to train 20 000 African experts in support of the Human Resources Development Initiative (HRDI) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). China will build an African Products Exhibition Centre (APEC) at Yiwu, (in China), offering special preferences like exemptions of charge reductions to residential African enterprises to promote Africa exports to China.”

According to the Economic and Commercial Counselor China would expand the fields of bilateral cooperation and further strengthen economic and trade relationships so that Botswana could benefit from initiatives such as APEC.

(Echo, 2 Feb 2011)

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