SOUTH AFRICA, RUSSIA COMMIT TO IMPLEMENT TRADE PACTS

Representatives of South Africa and Russia say while there has been progress made to upscale trade between the two countries, focus should be on implementing the agreements that already exist to realise mutual growth objectives.

Delegations from the two countries met on Friday in the South African capital of Pretoria for the 14th session of the South Africa-Russia Joint Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).

South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane commended the work undertaken by the ITEC sub-committees to further trade links between the two countries, who are both members of the BRICS bloc of emerging economies.

"We have been pleased with the work of the ITEC sub-committees. We can all see the benefits of the contributions of all the sectors that are engaged in ITEC. Thus far, we have signed more than 38 agreements and memorandum of understandings," said Nkoana-Mashabane.

The Minister is co-chairing the session with the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Sergey Donskoy.

The session is reviewing progress made in trade relations, especially in the sub- committees which include trade and investment, minerals, water, science and technology, higher education, and communication.

Nkoane-Mashabane said officials in government and business from the two sides have their work cut out for them, as they have to pick up the pace of implementation.

"There is still a lot of work to be done, hence we have put in place an action plan to track our progress. Our people cannot eat agreements and MoUs."

ITEC remains the main structured bilateral mechanism between South Africa and the Russian Federation. Since 1999, 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 the two countries.

Donskoy echoed Nkoana-Mashabane's sentiments, noting that trade and economic relations between the two countries are growing.

"We are happy with the dynamics of the growth but we need to implement those bilateral relations to their full scope. We still need to put a lot of effort into expanding our relationship."

Between January and July 2012, South Africa's exports to Russia were estimated at R2.4 billion, which included vegetables at R1.1 billion, iron and steel at R503 million, and mineral products at R369 million.

There were also 15 000 tourist arrivals from Russia in 2015. This is a significant increase from 10 410 in 2014.

Both Ministers described the discussions as fruitful.

"In our discussions, we continued to impress upon our partners the need for more progress on the platinum group metals, skills development, agricultural cooperation and science and technology," said Nkoane-Mashabane.

The meeting called for the need to match political partnership with strong economic and commercial relations in terms of substantive trade and investment in high value-added products and technology sectors.

Another key priority discussed was cooperation in nuclear energy.

Russia has, for the past 20 years, supplied South African nuclear power stations with uranium.

South Africa and Russia will next year celebrate 25 years of official relations. Nkoana-Mashabane said the occasion will not only be dance and song, but will be used to take stock of relations, make notes of where to improve and enhance cooperation across the board, especially in the economy.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK.

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