Remarks by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the Joint Press Conference following the conclusion of the Bilateral Meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr Pham Binh Minh, Pretoria, 06 August 2013
I warmly welcome His Excellency Mr Pham Binh Minh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and his delegation to the OR Tambo Building on his first visit to South Africa.
The timing of the visit by my Vietnamese counterpart is particularly appropriate, as South Africa and Vietnam this year celebrate 20 years of formal diplomatic relations. Relations between the peoples of South Africa and Vietnam, however, go back much further and have their roots in the contacts made between the Vietnamese authorities and the African National Congress (ANC) at the Bandung Conference in 1955.
South Africa and Vietnam have come a long way since our respective struggles for freedom. South Africa is today a free and democratic country and Vietnam has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, having halved poverty over the past 20 years. Our Governments face similar challenges to address inequality and alleviate poverty and we have much to learn from each other’s experiences.
South Africa attaches great importance to its relationship with Vietnam and regards Vietnam as a staunch friend and ally. Over the past 20 years the relationship between South Africa and Vietnam has grown and solidified into a multi-facetted relationship with growing cooperation in many fields, rapid growth in people-to-people links and strong state-to-state and government-to-government relations that includes cooperation at many levels, bilateral, as well as multilateral.
During our meeting today, Minister Pham Binh Minh and I did a brief review of the status of bilateral relations between our two countries, specifically in the areas of bilateral trade and investment and cooperation in the field of wildlife protection. We also discussed a number of international and regional issues of mutual interest.
On bilateral trade, we welcomed the continuing increase in the volume of bilateral trade – which reached R6 billion in 2012, up from R3,7 billion in 2011 – and agreed that substantial potential in the field of trade and investment remains unexploited. We noted South Africa’s considerable trade deficit and agreed that we should focus on increasing our economic interaction in a more balanced way.
With regard to cooperation in the field of wildlife protection, we shared our countries’ concern about the illegal trade in protected wildlife species and products and agreed to work together to put an end to this issue. In this regard, we welcomed the signing in December 2012 of a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Biodiversity Conservation and Protection and the subsequent signing in Pretoria in May 2013 of an Action Plan that outlines joint actions up to 2017 and provides for continual review.
Minister Pham and I shared with each other our governments’ domestic policy priorities and I invited Vietnam to consider investing in South Africa’s infrastructure drive.
In view of the successful trilateral rice and vegetable production project in the Republic of Guinea, where South Africa finances the project through the African Renaissance Fund and Vietnam provides the technical experts, we agreed to investigate other possibilities on the continent to undertake similar projects.