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China in Africa: The Real Story

List of Tariff-Free Entry Products for African LDCs: Update

Deborah Brautigam

In an earlier post I celebrated the "release" of the list of products given tariff-free entry into China from Africa's least developed countries. I said that this list had been very hard to find. In fact, I had asked Chinese officials several times for the list without success. Now, thanks to Liu Rongkun, an astute M.A. candidate at American University's School of International Service, we see that China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) actually published the entire list in July 2007. (In Chinese, naturally.) Liu Rongkun points out that the latest round of tariff-free entries announced in November 2006 took effect July 1, 2007. MOFCOM published the list four days later, on July 5th, 2007 along with the list of countries included under "least developed." According to Liu Rongkun's research, this initial list of 27 countries has been expanded several times as new African LDCs have "exchanged notes" with Beijing to formalize this benefit. As of late 2009, it probably now includes 31 countries -- only those who follow the "one-China" policy, naturally.

Liu Rongkun also reminds us that at the November 2009 FOCAC ministerial meeting in Egypt, China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao announced that by 2012, 95% of products produced in Africa will be tariff-free if exported to China. This probably still applies only to LDCs. But stay tuned for changes in the tariff list.

Finally, keep in mind, as China's ambassador to Malawi commented: "This policy does not only encourage Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa ... people all over the world who invest in Africa can enjoy this treatment." This is of course good to hear. But this makes it all the more curious as to why versions of this list have not been translated into languages in use in Africa and circulated widely by MOFCOM. It also makes it all the more useful to have the list in English (and thanks again to Standard Bank researchers who did that hard work). Now, who will do the translations into French, Portuguese, Swahili ... ?!