South African Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies met with his British counterpart, International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox, on the margins of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in London, to discuss the bilateral trade relationship. They both expressed pleasure at the strength of the trade and investment relationship between the two countries.
“The UK is South Africa’s second-largest trading partner in the European Union (EU) region,” pointed out Davies. “Our goods exports to the UK in 2014 were R37.6-billion and increased to R46.3-billion in 2017. “Noteworthy is the positive trade balance that South Africa continues to enjoy in its trade with the UK, which earns the country foreign currency and contributes to reducing the country’s current account deficit. The key priority for South Africa is to change the structure of our trade to more value-added products.”
“Free trade has transformed developing economies across the world, and 44 of our 52 Commonwealth partners, including South Africa, benefit from development-focused preferential trade access to the UK market,” affirmed Fox. “That’s why it’s important to ensure continuity and certainty in our current trade arrangements as we leave the EU, and UK officials with their counterparts across Southern Africa have made excellent progress in this.”
With the UK on the way to leaving the EU, the country is negotiating with the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) – comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland and Mozambique – to ensure that there is no disruption in trade and that the terms of the current Economic Partnership Agreement. between the EU and Sacu, as well as Mozambique, are continued by the UK and the Southern African countries after ‘Brexit’. The two Ministers welcomed the significant progress that had been made in these talks.
“This is critical to ensure continuity post-Brexit,” highlighted Davies.
“As we leave the EU and create a new independent UK trade policy, we will build further on our £9-billion in annual trade with South Africa, our biggest trading partner in Africa, and champion free trade to help developing countries combat poverty and grow their economies,” assured Fox.Technical Cooperation
The two sides agreed to examine alternatives for technical cooperation regarding bilateral trade and investment promotion. They also agreed to jointly push sustainable economic development by encouraging investments in priority areas.
Separately, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa met with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, also in a bilateral meeting. May expressed Britain’s readiness to support transformation in South Africa and the country’s National Development Plan. Both leaders agreed on the need to prioritise social inequality and youth unemployment.
The UK will, May and Ramaphosa agreed, provide £50-million in new funding over the next four years for South Africa. This will be used to help improve the South African business environment, to improve its attractiveness to foreign investors, including those from Britain. The aim is to create opportunities and jobs and ultimately lift some of the poorest South Africans out of poverty. The money will be employed to assist in the identification and removal of obstacles to trade within and beyond Africa. This will also create plenty of future opportunities for British business.
The two leaders also agreed to further develop the strong bilateral trade and investment relationship, as the UK left the EU. May observed that Britain was the largest investor in South Africa and that, in the words of the official statement issued by 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister’s Office), “we are firm supporters of the President’s drive to attract even more investment to the country”, They also discussed the opportunities to revitalise and reinvigorate the partnership between the two countries.