Xi said China and South Africa were important emerging economies with similar perspectives on many global issues.
"We have agreed that we must work as partners to improve the lives of our peoples by elevating our business, commercial and trade ties", Ramaphosa told a joint news conference with Xi.
Yesterday Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke tough on trade.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that the South African government had signed several agreements, including memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on investments, amounting to R14.7 billion with China.
"A trade war should be rejected because there will be no victor", he said.
"Unilateralism and protectionism are mounting, dealing a severe blow to multilateralism", he said.
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The BRICS group, comprising more than 40 per cent of the global population, represents some of the biggest emerging economies, but it has struggled to find a unified voice. "China will continue to develop itself with its door wide open".
"We are meeting here at a time when the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges", he said in a speech.
U.S. President Donald Trump earlier on Wednesday accused China of "vicious" tactics on trade, tweeting that China was specifically targeting U.S. farmers with retaliatory tariffs because "they know I love & respect" them.
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Mr Xi held talks with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on the eve of the gathering, saying that "the Johannesburg summit has special significance for Brics cooperation in the new circumstances".
They were speaking at a three-day meeting of BRICS leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"Something that's different about BRICS this year, specifically about South Africa as a host country, is that this initiative is not only about the BRICS member countries, the five countries, but actually, we've seen an outreach of neighborhood countries being invited", she said.
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He said 7,000 South Africans work in jobs affected by the metals tariffs; an effort to secure an exemption from the United States government was unsuccessful.