LIBREVILLE, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Enjoying friendly relations that go back a long way, Gabon and China have been constantly strengthening practical cooperation in various fields, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba said in an exclusive written interview with Xinhua during his state visit to China, expressing his hope that an accelerated bilateral relationship would bring more benefits to the two peoples.
At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Bongo is on a state visit to China from Tuesday to Friday.
Bilateral relations have been marked by mutual respect, friendship and mutual trust, as well as mutually beneficial cooperation, said the Gabonese president, who noted that he is honored to be the first African head of state to visit China since the re-election of the Chinese president.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations almost five decades ago, the two countries have maintained close high-level exchanges, bilateral relations have been constantly consolidated and developed, and the two countries have firmly supported each other on issues involving each other's core interests and major concerns, he said.
On the international scene, the two countries have reached a high level of consensus on preserving global peace and security, as well as resolving conflicts, placed particular emphasis on abiding by international laws, including the UN Charter, and jointly safeguarded international equity and justice, said Bongo.
China has remained Gabon's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. In 2022, the trade volume between the two countries reached 4.55 billion U.S. dollars, up over 50 percent year on year.
Highlighting the presence of Chinese companies and investors in various sectors in Gabon, including the agro-industry, infrastructure, fishing and mining, the Gabonese president noted that the two countries have "fully leveraged their respective strengths and their economic complementarity" for mutually beneficial economic growth.
"As such, I would like to congratulate once again on the level of economic and trade cooperation between Gabon and China, which in recent years has become one of the major drivers in the economic development of my country," he said.
In 2018, Gabon and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which, Bongo said, creates opportunities to diversify his country's economy and improve people's livelihoods.
Since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, the two countries have strived to promote policy coordination, facilities connectivity, trade facilitation, financial integration and people-to-people bonds, he said.
Gabon "intends to fully seize all the opportunities offered by the BRI to diversify its economy, as part of the implementation of its development strategy," he said.
Referring to Africa-China relations, Bongo said China attaches great importance to the development of African countries and continues to open new paths for Africa-China cooperation via the mechanism of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
"The quality of the Gabon-China cooperation demonstrates, in my opinion, all the interest that China attaches to the development of Africa," he said.
Praising the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative proposed by the Chinese president, Bongo said these initiatives should help secure international peace and security, as well as promote the development and cultural prosperity of all countries.
"These initiatives are tangible proof that China remains a privileged partner, particularly for Gabon and for Africa as a whole," he said.
"I would like to conclude by welcoming the fact that Gabon has as its partner a large country such as China, which is respected by the international community," he said. ■