SA, Australia push for closer ties

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pretoria - South Africa and Australia have reaffirmed the need to strengthen their existing relations and further expand cooperation between the two countries.

This follows a meeting between International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane and her Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Pretoria this morning.

Speaking to the media after the meeting the two agreed on projects to deliver humanitarian assistance and help in rebuilding the strife-torn Zimbabwe.

In this regard, the two ministers agreed in principal that they would assist in Zimbabwe with the taxation law, water and sanitation. Smith said Zimbabwe needed technical expertise to reform its tax laws and build the economy.

For her part, Nkoana Mashabane said South Africa was looking forward to working with Australian businesses to further open up trade opportunities and allow investment to grow between SA and Australia.

"We are seeing some of Australia's successful businesses partnering with their South African counterparts. We would like to see more of such partnerships and more of Australia's businesses coming into South Africa," she said.

South Africa and Australia share common interests and could still do more on issues of defence, peace and security, agriculture as well as human development, said Nkoana Mashabane

It was imperative, she continued, for South Africa to build human capacity through strengthening of the education and knowledge systems for its people.

Smith, who is the first Australian Foreign Minister to visit South Africa in more than seven years, said Australia would increase African scholarships especially in the agricultural and minerals resources sectors.

He was also pleased on the country's preparations for the FIFA World Cup that kicks off in June.

"I am especially pleased to visit South Africa in 2010 as it prepares to host the World Cup," he said, adding that more than 7000 Australians are likely to travel to South Africa for the tournament.

He assured that Australia was committed to assisting the country with the technical expertise to diversify the economy.

"Australia is determined to enhance high-level political engagement with South Africa, which is Australia's most important economic partner in Africa," said Smith.

The two also discussed ways of boosting the bilateral relations and exchanged views on a range of common interests, including cooperation in the G20 and the UN Security Council.

Smith described the visit as a fresh start to enhancing good working and productive relations between the two countries.