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SA encouraged by French commitment to improve trade

Pretoria – Despite a drop in total trade between France and South Africa from R32 billion in 2008 to R23 billion in 2009, Pretoria says it is encouraged by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s commitment to strengthen economic relations, which are viewed as vital by President Jacob Zuma’s administration to create much needed jobs.

With ambitious plans to create five million jobs in the next decade, government is aware that any direct international investment to stimulate the local economy is crucial.

The presence of several Cabinet ministers, including Ministers of Finance Pravin Gordhan and Trade and Industry Rob Davies during last week’s state visit to France may have been an indication of how seriously Zuma took the occasion.

France has a long-standing relationship with South Africa, with more than 150 French companies operating in the country. The French government also regards South Africa as its number one trading partner on the continent.

“We are also encouraged by the view of the French media that France saw South Africa as a gateway to Africa and more importantly, that France sees Africa as the continent of [the] century,” said International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at a media briefing on Thursday.

She highlighted several agreements signed between the two countries, one which will see power utility Eskom cooperate with the French Development Agency in a deal that will lead to the provision of R1 billion for Eskom to use on the wind farm project.

The agency will also provide about R2 billion to Airports Company South Africa for expansion at Cape Town International Airport and about R700 million to the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority for the building of a dam in Durban.

The South African Nuclear Energy Cooperation also signed an agreement with a French energy body for partnership in nuclear fuel and other nuclear technology. The two countries have also pledged to enhance their cooperation in the field of energy and have reaffirmed their shared commitment to partnerships, especially in the field of renewable energy and civil nuclear energy.

“So without any fear of contradiction, we can say President Zuma and his delegation’s visit to France was indeed successful and many significant outcomes were reached,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

The minister said South Africa regarded France’s role in international affairs, including its leadership of the G8 and G20 groups, as significant to the country’s development, adding that South Africa had further committed to support France during its twin presidencies of the two bodies.

On the reform of global economic bodies, which Sarkozy has been championing, the minister said the meeting acknowledged that Africa had been experiencing serious economic and lately political crises as seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Ivory Coast and Libya.

“President Zuma used this opportunity to condemn the violent nature of the clashes in Libya and has supported all the decisions taken by the United Nations Security council on Libya.” – BuaNews

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