5 October 2011
South Africa and Turkey have agreed to further develop their relations, which in time might turn into high-level council meetings and fuel momentum between the regional powers.
This follows a meeting between Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Pretoria this week to review the state of relations, including the status and implementation of agreements and programmes of cooperation.
There has been a committed dialogue between Turkey and South Africa across a host of regional and global issues, ranging from financial woes at the G20 meetings, reform talks at the UN and developments in North Africa and the Middle East to the upcoming UN climate change summit in Durban.
The two countries have been meeting regularly following Motlanthe’s first official visit to Turkey in May 2010.
“These regular high-level exchanges do not only contribute to the strengthening of political and economic relations, but also facilitate constructive engagements in a number of fields like education and skills development,” Motlanthe told a news briefing in Pretoria after the talks on Tuesday.
“We share complementary economic, commercial and technical capabilities that can contribute to the advancement of the respective national development priorities.”
Gateway to sub-Saharan Africa
This time, however, trade and economic issues were on top of the agenda for both countries – with most Euro-zone countries drowning in debt and the Middle East a political hotbed, the Turks are shifting their export dependency from their traditional trading partners.
In their quest to boost exports to US$500-billion over the next few years, from $99-billion so far this year, they have set their sights on South Africa as a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa’s huge consumer markets.
With a stable government, booming economy, vast consumer market, friendly investment environment and solid financial system, South Africa might just be the answer for the Turkish.
Trade between South Africa and Turkey has been growing, with exports to Turkey increasing from R1-billion in 2004 to R4-billion in 2008. This is an increase of over 75% of South Africa’s exports to Turkey in nominal terms.
Wealth of knowledge
Comparing the industries of Turkey and South Africa, Erdogan noted that the industries of the two countries complemented each other.
Turkey has a wealth of knowledge in the clothing and textile industry as well as the mineral beneficiation and jewellery sectors, and South Africa can benefit greatly from constructive partnership in these industries, especially relating to skills development and training.
The two countries are also looking to increase cooperation in various fields such as education, skills development, minerals beneficiation, tourism, commerce and the defence industry.
“Our visit is crucial to develop commercial relations. Half of all Turkish exports go to European Union countries. There is a serious recession in Europe. This visit will help us open up to new markets,” Erdogan said through an interpreter.
However, Motlanthe highlighted that the tariffs for South Africa were higher compared to other EU partners. To address this, the two agreed that they needed to look at both sides, which they labelled as “sensitive.”
Ideally, these concerns should be addressed through the establishment of a Business Council once the necessary capacity has been established, said Motlanthe.
The two countries also agreed to put “urgent attention” to waive visa requirements and increase bilateral visits with an aim towards enriching diplomatic and trade ties.
In this light, the two leaders agreed to work hand-in-hand to address the situation in other parts of the world like Somalia. Turkey has committed to opening a health facility as well as an embassy in Somalia.
Welcoming this, Motlanthe said the next step was to bring about political stability, which he said was a “pre-condition” for any progress in that country.
On other international issues, the two discussed the situation in Syria, which Erdogan said his government would soon announce sanctions against.
“We can no longer remain spectator to the developments in Syria. There are serious deaths of innocent, defenceless people. We cannot say ‘this should continue’,” Erdogan told the press conference.
“We have already partially announced certain steps that cannot wait any longer.”
SAinfo reporter and BuaNews