22 August 2005
South Africa and Chile are to look for ways to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.
Delegates from the two governments met in Pretoria last week to discuss a wide range of issues of common interest.
The 2nd South Africa-Chile Joint Consultative Mechanism was co-chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad and his Chilean counterpart, Under-Secretary Christian Barros.
The meeting follows President Thabo Mbeki’s visit to Chile in June, when he and his counterpart, Ricardo Escobar, agreed that both countries had important political and economic roles in their respective regions and that relations between the two needed to be strengthened.
This has paved the way for the signing of a number of agreements in the near future, including on defence, agriculture, double-taxation and science and technology.
Although he said he was happy with political relations between South Africa and Chile, Pahad expressed concern about the low level of economic relations between the two countries.
“The visit [by Barros] highlights what we have been saying, that we have been neglecting tremendous political and economic potential of that region,” Pahad said.
“We hope this visit will enable us to begin a process next year to plan a much more systematic approach in economic diplomacy in that region.
“Chile can be a gateway for us; we already have got the India-Brazil-South Africa cooperation, but I think the relations with Chile can help expand that.”
He said trade between South Africa and Chile was in favour of South Africa, adding that there was now compatibility between the economies of the two countries and that they needed to get their respective private sectors to begin to understand the economic potential.
Barros also expressed a commitment by Chile to improve relations with South Africa, especially economically.
“We have good political relations with South Africa, but we will need to improve other areas like defence agreements, trade and economic agreements, science and technology, agriculture.”