Mbeki arrives on state visit to France

17th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 17 (AFP) - South African President Thabo Mbeki arrived in France on Monday for a three-day state visit focused on African development, conflict resolution on the world's poorest continent and bilateral trade relations.

PARIS, Nov 17 (AFP) - South African President Thabo Mbeki arrived in France on Monday for a three-day state visit focused on African development, conflict resolution on the world's poorest continent and bilateral trade relations.

Mbeki, who arrived at Orly airport south of Paris, was due to hold talks with French President Jacques Chirac at about 5:00 pm, with a press conference expected to follow and a state dinner Monday evening.

The South African leader, making his fourth trip to France this year, was expected to raise a number of issues with Chirac, ranging from trade liberalisation and agricultural subsidies, to ongoing wars in Africa.


"France has a very direct interest in Africa... One cannot deal with the challenges and problems of Africa without having the closest cooperation with France," said South African presidency minister Essop Pahad.

Mbeki and Chirac were expected to discuss Pretoria's involvement in efforts to broker peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring Burundi.

Also expected to be on the agenda are the failed World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico in September, and South Africa's bid to host the 2010 soccer World Cup.

South Africa is reportedly miffed that Chirac is backing Morocco's efforts to host the event.

"I am sure the matter will come up, but it will not be a question of getting someone to change his mind," Pahad said.

Mbeki is accompanied by a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin and executives from key state-owned companies such as power utility Eskom, arms manufacturer Denel and transport utility Transnet.

Mbeki will meet French business leaders Tuesday at a working lunch hosted by French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin before addressing France's National Assembly. He and Dlamini-Zuma were to meet French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin later that day.

France was South Africa's ninth-largest export market in 2002, having imported more than USD 1 billion (EUR 850 million) in goods and services. South Africa imported USD 1.6 billion in French goods in 2002.

France was also the ninth most important foreign investor in South Africa in 2002, pouring more than USD 448 million into South Africa's economy.

The South African president was due to wrap up his visit on Wednesday with a speech to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is based in the French capital.

AFP


Subject: French news


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