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South African, Indian trade ministers stress bilateral opportunities at summit

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South African, Indian trade ministers stress bilateral opportunities at summit

Photo by Reuters

30th April 2018

By: Rebecca Campbell
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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India has progressed from having almost no trade with South Africa in 1994 to today being the country's sixth to eight largest trading partner, highlighted South African Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies on Monday. He was addressing the India-South African Business Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg.

And bilateral trade continues to grow. He pointed out that, while it totaled R68-billion in 2012, it had risen to R107-billion in 2017. And this trade had been accompanied by investment. "Approximately 130 Indian firms are operating in South Africa in one way or another." A number of Indian brands are now well-established in South Africa, he noted, and South African companies have also invested in India. "So we have something to build on."

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"We need to take that [bilateral] relationship a lot further forward," he affirmed. "We can do it. ... India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. ... South Africa ... is on a new path. ... We have seen already a new broom. ... We have seen action to reduce uncertainties in policy and practice."

He pointed out that the current economic growth forecasts for South Africa represented the floor growth level, not the ceiling, and that Goldman Sachs had chosen South Africa as the "hot emerging market" for this year. "We are seeking a massive investment drive [with a target of $100-billion]. That is a stretch target, but it can be achieved."

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"Africa and India have the youngest populations," emphasised Indian Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, in his address to the summit. "What we need to do today .... is to address the expectations of the young people."

He cited the great potential between Africa and India, especially Southern Africa and India, and "particularly" South Africa and India. "We are working for a better world. The huge potential that exists, we'd like to develop together."

"We want to make it [trade and investment] for the benefit of either side," he assured. "We want jobs in India, but not at the expense of jobs in South Africa. We must work together. Africa, and South Africa, is blessed with so many resources. ... Development is what benefits the people in our countries."

"There are shockwaves in the multilateral trading system," warned Davies. There was thus a need to strengthen trade relations between developing countries. The planned African Free Trade Area showed that the continent was on the way to creating a large domestic market.

Prabhu also cautioned that the global trading system, which had been in place for decades, was now being questioned by some. "Now it is the turn for Africa, India, to benefit from it." He expressed India's support for an open, rules-based, global trading system. "It's to solve the world's global problems," by defeating poverty by trade, not aid.

Davies stressed that the reason Indian-South African trade had been so insignificant in 1994 had been India's steadfast opposition to apartheid. India had been the first country to call for sanctions on apartheid South Africa. "India was at the forefront of solidarity for our struggle!"

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