SA, UK ‘committed to doubling trade’

14 February 2012

South Africa and the United Kingdom are looking to increase economic and trade ties through the export of high-value-added goods to the UK, says International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Briefing the media at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town on Monday following a bilateral meeting with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, Nkoana-Mashabane said trade between the two countries had improved last year after declining 37% from 2008 to 2009 amid the global financial crisis.

Trade between the two countries increased 77% between 2001 and 2008, growing from R42-billion to R74.5-billion. In the first 10 months of last year, South African exports to the UK increased 10.7%, while UK imports were up 30.6%.

Last year, the two countries agreed at a bilateral forum to double trade between the two nations by 2015.

Setting up African Free Trade Area

While the UK remains South Africa’s top source of overseas tourist arrivals, with 453 000 arrivals in 2010, the country is also providing support to set up a Free Trade Area (FTA) in Africa and providing development assistance through its Department for International Development.

Nkoana-Mashabane said there were more than 300 UK companies operating in South Africa and several SA ones in the UK, pointing out that the South African government wanted to encourage UK companies to invest in minerals beneficiation and the agro-processing sector in South Africa.

Hague, who was to meet with businesses in the food sector on Monday evening, congratulated South Africa for successfully hosting the COP 17 Climate Change Conference in Durban in December, and said the UK would continue to work with South Africa.

“We will continue to work with you over the coming year, and I think that South Africa has given a very good strong lead in that area. And certainly our countries have worked very well together,” said Hague, who was also due to speak at the University of the Western Cape on Tuesday on bilateral trade between the two countries.

He said South Africa was a “truly global player” across a range of issues, including non-proliferation, climate change and conflict resolution.

African and Middle East issues

Hague and Nkoana-Mashabane also discussed several African and Middle East issues, including next week’s conference on Somalia, to be held in London, and said South Africa had a key role to play in tackling piracy in the Mozambican channel.

Hague said Britain was in favour of permanent representation for Africa at the UN Security Council.

He said the UK would do everything to ensure peaceful elections in Zimbabwe and to support the SADC’s and President Jacob Zuma’s efforts to bring about reforms in South Africa’s northern neighbour.

While Nkoana-Mashabane urged the EU to relook at trade sanctions on Zimbabwe, Hague said an outcome on EU’s targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe was imminent. He said while there had been some progress on the ground in Zimbabwe, it had not been “as much as we would have liked”.

Turning to Syria, Hague welcomed the latest proposal by the Arab League on Syria to isolate the regime, including the endorsement of the Group of Friends which he said is expected to meet in Tunisia on February 24.

He also welcomed the Arab Leagues’ financial and political support for the opposition in Syria and its efforts to foster a more united opposition in Syria.

He said the UK would discuss urgently with the Arab League the setting up of a joint Arab League and UN peacekeeping force, but was quick to add that a peacekeeping force could only be deployed once Syria had withdrawn its troops from cities, stopped killing civilians and set up a credible ceasefire.

Asked whether the UK and South Africa would contribute peacekeepers, Hague said it was important that President Bashar Assad follow through with an agreement to pull back troops from cities.

He said any peacekeeping force should not be made up of Western countries. “I don’t see the way forward in Syria as Western-boots on the ground, I think it should come from outside the West,” he said.

Source: BuaNews