Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for attending this press conference on our just successfully concluded 14th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) with the Russian Federation.
As you may know, the ITEC remains the main vehicle that drives the bilateral relations between South Africa and the Russian Federation, it has proven to be an effective instrument in contributing directly to improved two-way trade and investment, as well as critical skills development and technology exchanges between our two countries.
South Africa’s exports to Russia were estimated at R 2,4 billion between January and July 2016 which was composed of vegetables at R1,1 billion; Products such as Iron and Steel at R 502 million and Mineral Products at R369 million. These figures are expected to increase in the second half of the year and change the negative trade balance that South Africa has been experiencing with its partners in the North.
There are 38 Bilateral Agreements and MOUs that have been signed between the two countries. There are 14 more agreements and MOUs in the pipeline. All these will be put into a matrix to have an implementation plan.
Embassies and Missions exist to promote trade, investment and tourism. There were 15 000 tourist arrivals from Russia in 2015. This is a significant increase from the figures for 2014 (10 410 arrivals).
We have been pleased to host the ITEC Sub-Committees in the sectors of trade, investment and banking; mineral resources; energy; science and technology; water resources; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; and education. A new Sub-Committee on Communications also met for the first time and identified areas of potential co-operation between our two countries.
We are also pleased that the South Africa-Russia Business Council convened and had fruitful exchanges on a clear roadmap of prospective bilateral investment projects.
This 14th Session of the ITEC was instrumental in reviewing progress made since the last session held in Moscow in 2015.
Discussions have been very fruitful and the Sub-Committees have committed to strengthening implementation of all the existing commitments between our two countries in the respective sectors, so that our strategic partnership produces tangible benefits for both countries.
As you would be aware, South Africa continues to advocate for more co-operation with our partners in the critical areas identified by our government in line with our domestic priorities. In this regard, in our discussions we continued to impress upon our partners the need for more progress on the Platinum Group Metals, skills development, agricultural co-operation and science and technology.
Other key priorities for South Africa in these discussions included co-operation on nuclear energy, and we have recorded progress in the collaboration between the two countries under South African National Industrial Participation Programme.
Of critical importance is our continued call for the need to match our excellent political partnership with strong economic and commercial relations in terms of substantive trade and investment in high value added and high technology sectors. This was stressed as one of our goals that we should be hammering and in our discussions.
By facilitating increased partnerships between South African and Russian businesses through the South Africa-Russia Business Council and government to government cooperation, these gains can be realised without delay.
We also acknowledged the contribution of sectors such as Arts and Culture in enhancing the strategic partnership between South Africa and Russia as well as the clear benefits for our respective citizens that co-operation in these sectors provide. In this regard, we commend our officials from both sides for bringing to fruition one of the cultural exchange programmes - the SA-Russia Cultural Season which was inaugurated in South Africa recently.
South Africa is grateful for the constructive participation by Minister Donskoy and his delegation in the 14th Session of ITEC and we look forward to renewed vigour in implementing our respective commitments prior to the 15th Session in 2017.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION