JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - China overtook the United States as South Africa's biggest export destination in the first half of 2009, reinforcing the Asian country's push to build trade links with Africa.
South African trade and industry department data also showed on Friday China replaced Germany as its largest country trade partner.
The European Union remains, by far, South Africa's largest regional trading partner for both imports and exports.
Data for South Africa -- Africa's biggest economy -- showed exports to China stood at 27.6 billion rand for the year to June, against 35.8 billion rand for the whole of 2008.
Exports to the U.S. were 19.1 billion rand compared with 66.5 billion rand for 2008.
China has ramped up trade with Africa this decade, particularly looking for the continent's abundant mineral resources, surpassing competing countries in Europe and the United States that have been harder hit by an economic downturn.
China's overall trade with Africa has increased tenfold over the past decade, hitting $107 billion last year, narrowly eclipsing the United States.
South African imports from China measured 35.24 billion rand for the six-month period against 31.45 billion rand for Germany and 23.3 billion rand for the United States.
"China has already increased their footprint throughout Africa, not just South Africa," Efficient Group economist Freddie Mitchell said.
"With South Africa, a lot of doors have opened up to them," referring to China's biggest bank ICBC buying 20 percent of South Africa's Standard Bank, the continent's biggest bank by assets.