India to expand trade to SA

Monday, August 24, 2009

Johannesburg - India has emphasised its commitment to further expand and diversify trade with South Africa.

India's Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma was speaking on Monday at the South Africa-India CEOs Forum, which was attended by South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

Mr Sharma, who is in the country for a six-day visit, highlighted the need for Indian businesses to continue their proactive engagement in South Africa with an emphasis on job creation and skills development for the local economy.

The two ministers met to discuss economic relations between South Africa and India and to improve trade relations between the two countries.

While trade had tripled between the two economies from 2003 to 2007, the two countries believe more can be done.

"We hope that given the potential and opportunities in both countries it will expand even further," said Minister Davies.

According to Mr Davies, the meeting covered key aspects of bilateral relations and steps being taken "to consolidate and diversify the strategic and economic partnership between the two countries".

The two countries also discussed measures to deepen and diversify their bilateral relationship through a newly "energised" economic and commercial partnership, building on their existing complementary traits.

It was agreed that India would share its experience in rural development and employment generation and a delegation led by the Minister of Rural Development of South Africa would visit India in the near future in this regard.

Regarding President Jacob Zuma's state visit to India next year, the two ministers discussed ways to leverage the visit with suggestions of a cooperation agreement between South Africa and India's film industries among others.

On the multilateral front, Mr Sharma said the forthcoming World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Meeting, which will be hosted by India in New Delhi from September 3-4, hoped to make progress on the Doha Round.

"We have taken the initiative and ministers reflective or representative of a rainbow of countries will meet in Delhi with the objective to look at the process, re-engage and re-energise the process which has been stalled for a long time," he said.

The mini-ministerial WTO meeting is expected to bring together trade ministers from nearly 40 developed and developing countries to iron out differences in perceptions and lay the groundwork for the successful outcome of negotiations.

The Doha Development Round is a trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organisation, which started in November 2001, but talks stalled in 2008. Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world to allow countries to increase trade globally.

However, the negotiations are now faced with the daunting task of striking a balance between the divergent demands of developed and developing countries on sensitive agricultural issues.

While developed countries are seeking greater market access in developing countries for selling their agricultural products, the developing countries are demanding protection of basic livelihood of their farming community before opening up their markets to global competition.

Minister Davies said South Africa will be participating in the Doha process. "We believe that a successful outcome to the Doha round has got to be one that is faithful to the developmental mandate of the developing countries," Mr Davies said.