10th South Africa-Russia ITEC
Pretoria - South Africa and Russia have agreed to increase their cooperation in various fields, including technology, energy, trade and investment.
This emerged after the inter-sessional meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-operation (ITEC) - a platform for the South African and Russian Federation governments to discuss political and economic relations between the two countries - held in Pretoria.
The meeting was chaired by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and the Russian Minister of Natural Resources Yuri Trutnev and it sought ways to enhance cooperation and relationships that already exist between the two governments, their people and businesses.
Although strategically poised, bilateral trade between South Africa and Russia has fallen below its potential.
To strike a balance, the two ministers agreed to take steps to increase trade, while shifting the focus to high value-added products, as well as to enhance cooperation in high-technology areas.
Nkoana-Mashabane said that they will exploit new trade and investment opportunities and identify and resolve potential obstacles in areas of cooperation.
“This will facilitate economic competitiveness, develop skills, generate sustainable jobs and contribute towards an improvement in the livelihoods of the peoples of South African and Russia,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.
Russia, which has highly skilled people in science and technology, offers huge opportunities for trade and investment partnerships, especially in minerals, energy, agriculture, education and skills development.
Nkoana-Mashabane was confident that the accession of South Africa to the BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which has been renamed BRICS, will further reveal the potential for future cooperation, especially in science, technology and space.
Commenting on Russia’s investment direction in SA, Trutnev said the cooperation was diversified and the two countries complemented each other in different areas such as minerals, energy, space and raw materials, gold and diamonds.
Trutnev was confident great things lay on the horizon for Russian and South African trade.
Already, total trade turnover between South Africa and the Russian Federation increased by 6.42% in 2009, from US $484 million to $517 million.
The two parties also agreed to frequent interaction through the business council in order to enhance knowledge of commercial opportunities, while prioritising capacity building and skills transfer, particularly in high technology areas.
On issues of mutual interest, Pretoria hoped that the BRICS countries would cooperate in securing Africa the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. If Africa wins the bid against Australia – a decision expected in March 2012 – this will be a major step in developing high-level skills and cutting-edge technology infrastructure in Africa, and attract expertise and collaborative projects to the continent.
For its part, Russia flagged their confidence in South Africa ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) on climate change in Durban later this year.
The meeting was sealed by the signing of two agreements on solar cooperation.
The next ITEC meeting will be held in 2012. - BuaNews