SA, Switzerland to deepen bilateral relations

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pretoria - South Africa and Switzerland are to strengthen relations at the Second South Africa/Switzerland Annual consultations on Monday.

International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim will co-chair the meeting with the State Secretary of the Confederation of Switzerland, Michael Ambuhl in Pretoria.

According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the meeting takes place within the context of North South Dialogue and is an endeavour to deepen bilateral relations between the two countries.

The meeting seeks to make an overview of the current state of bilateral political relations in Science and Technology; Bilateral Development Cooperation; Draft Agreement on Trilateral Cooperation; Signing of Visa Agreement; Double Taxation Agreement; FIFA 2010 World Cup; and Apartheid Class Action Suit.

In addition the Second Session will afford the two countries to exchange views on the African Agenda and the conflicts on the African continent, the department said.

It will also focus on the multilateral issues including UN Security Council; Human Rights Council; Durban Review Conference; Climate Change; and Nuclear Disarmament.

The Annual Consultations forum was borne out of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between South Africa and Switzerland on the 28 May 2008.

During the first Annual High Level Consultations held in Bern on 27 May 2008, a strong partnership between South Africa and Switzerland was reaffirmed together with the shared commitment to the values of democracy, good governance, peace and security and development on the African continent, especially with regards to South Sudan and the DRC.

Furthermore, the two countries reviewed bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction that relations between South Africa and Switzerland and their peoples continue to strengthen and grow in all areas.

Relations between South Africa and Switzerland remain very good and are based upon growing bilateral and economic ties. In recent years many bilateral contacts have taken place at a higher level, providing excellent opportunities to discuss relations between the two countries.

Relations have since 1998 been regulated by a Joint Working Group, established after a Declaration of Intent on Joint Activities signed during the State Visit of President Cotti to South Africa in August 1998.

The Declaration of Intent provided for joint actions and projects to be undertaken in priority areas such as democratisation and good governance, promotion of conflict resolution and peace promotion.

During the 2008/2009 financial year, South Africa's exports to Switzerland peaked at around R15.4 billion, whereas Swiss imports to South Africa peaked at around R6.19 billion, with total trade peaking at around R21 -22 billion.

The trade balance is heavily in South Africa's favour, with a surplus of R9.2 billion. Trade with Switzerland accounts for 1.53 percent of all total South African exports.

There are 150 Swiss companies investing in SA (e.g. Holcim, Nestle, Credit Suisse and Schindler Lifts and also there are a few South African companies in Switzerland (e.g. SAA, De Beers, Sappi and Investec).

Swiss products imported to SA include chemicals, vehicles, aircrafts and mechanical appliances. SA products exported to Switzerland include minerals, wood pulp, ammunition, precious and semi precious metals, prepared foodstuffs and beverages.