Notes Following Media Briefing by Deputy Director-General Gert Grobler Media Centre, Amphitheatre, Union Buildings Wednesday 26 September 2007
SOUTH AFRICA – SWEDEN BINATIONAL COMMISSION
Let me say something about the South Africa – Sweden Binational Commission:
I don’t have to tell you that South Africa and Sweden have a very special relationship. Our relations with Sweden are very strongly based on the support and the solidarity shown by Sweden in the dark days of Apartheid. As you are aware, this support came also from the entire Nordic community. This has always informed a very strong basis and foundation for our relations with Sweden.
A number of years ago the Heads of State of the two countries, as a result of this very strong relationship and the solidarity that exists between South Africa and Sweden, in 1999 decided that in order to give further substance to relations between both countries, a Binational Commission would be created. The first session took place in 2000 and since then four sessions have been held. The one in Sweden next week will be the fifth session of the BNC.
Before I go into the BNC, I would like to say something about the relations between our two countries: as I have said these are excellent. We utilise the BNC, to amongst others, have a very active and in depth political dialogue between South Africa and Sweden on issues related to our bilateral relations, regional and continental and global issues where we share many common positions.
The Deputy President will be hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister while in Sweden for the BNC deliberations.
Sweden ’s foreign policy has not changed significantly under the new government. The foreign policy of Sweden has always been based on respect for human rights and international law and working very closely with the developing world. In terms of our relations under the new government, it has been more of the same with excellent co-operation between the two countries and governments.
Regarding development co-operation: since 1994 South Africa has worked very closely with Sweden a host of issues in terms of development co-operation to reduce poverty, inequality, vulnerability. There are various highly commendable projects in many of the provinces. We have been working very closely with them in the health sector to, amongst others, combat HIV and Aids and SIDA (the development agency of Sweden) has been an excellent partner in that they have very closely aligned their support and assistance to South Africa with our own national objectives and priorities in the various sectors in which we co-operate.
Our trade relations are growing apace – right now, the total trade between South Africa and Sweden amounts to R10 billion coming off a very low base in 1994. However, South Africa imports much more, double the amount, that we export. We import approximately R6.5 billion from Sweden and we export about R3.5 billion. These are one of the issues of the BNC: to address this skewed trade relationship.
Perhaps I can just say that the BNC has been structured in such a manner that we have three committees: political affairs committee, economic affairs committee and social affairs committee.
As I mentioned, the political affairs committee obviously looks at our bilateral relations, closer co-operation between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and South Africa. We also created a Peace and Security Working Group (PSWG) with regard to Africa which meets on a regular basis to discuss issues on the continent and region. In fact, Sweden has been a very valuable partner for South Africa in terms of engaging in trilateral projects in Africa. We will continue to discuss this when we are in Sweden and I am sure there are projects on which we will agree, particularly in areas related to South Sudan.
We co-operate very closely in terms of defence. South Africa has decided to buy Grippen planes from SAAB/BAE that are in the process of being delivered to South Africa.
On broader foreign policy issues, like UN reform, peacekeeping, the human rights council, we share common positions. We have very fruitful and constructive discussions on many issues in the political affairs committee.
The Economic Affairs committee has the objective to further actively promote economic ties. We have in South Africa a number of Swedish companies – Volvo, SAAB, Ericson – who have investments in South Africa. The agenda will include issues of expanded co-operation within the context of AsgiSA. What is very encouraging is that we are in the process of agreeing with Sweden on a formal partnership between Sweden and South Africa on skills development in a JIPSA context.
The Swedish Embassy recently hosted an economic awareness week in order to create opportunities and increase awareness of the trading opportunities in Sweden. As a result of this, I have been told that there have been some positive developments and an increasing amount of South African exporters to Sweden.
Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka will have two major engagements in this regard: a business breakfast where 15-20 top Swedish businesspeople will be present. This will be followed by an investment conference where the Deputy President and her counterpart will focus particularly on increased investment from Sweden to South Africa.
There are other issues related to this: corporate social responsibility and the World Trade Organisation.
A sizeable South African business delegation will accompany the Deputy President to Sweden to participate in this investment seminar jointly hosted by South Africa and Sweden.
The third committee is the Social Affairs committee headed by the South African Department of Treasury and the Swedish Department of Development. This committee focuses on co-operation in the field of health, communicable diseases, science and technology and the education field.
This particular committee focuses on the development co-operation between the two countries which continues to expand.
The Deputy President will arrive in Sweden on 3 October 2007 and will meet her counterpart following which they will jointly open the plenary of the BNC. The committees will then break-away to deliberate and will report back the next day on the progress that has been made. Deputy President will have a host of engagements that day, including inter alia, with SAAB, Grippen, the Swedish Ministers for Employment, Education and Science. The focus of which will be skills development within the context of JIPSA. We hope to enable a formal government-to-government skills development partnership.
The Deputy President will lay a wreath at the grave of Olav Palmer who played a very important role in the struggle against Apatheid. There will be a business breakfast the next day providing an opportunity for engagement between captains of industry from South Africa and Sweden. This will be followed by the investment seminar I referred to earlier.
The Deputy President will visit the Swedish Institute of International Affairs to deliver an address on Africa during which she will focus on developments within SADC, the African Union and NEPAD with the objective to further promote the African agenda. The Deputy President will also visit the top research hospital in Sweden, particularly in the field of communicable diseases. We will discuss the possibility of skills development in the health sector.
VISIT TO SOUTH AFRICA BY GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL
This will be a long-awaited visit to South Africa by Chancellor Merkel.
President Mbeki had a constructive meeting with Chancellor Merkel last year during the World Cup. It was a very lengthy meeting that looked at bilateral issues, issues related to Africa and wider global issues.
President Mbeki and Chancellor Merkel also met at Heiligendamm at the Group of 8 Summit earlier this year where Chancellor Merkel played a key and highly constructive role in guiding the G8 through their policies and approach towards the main global issues in the world – climate change was one of the major issues at the Summit. Germany also played an important role to keep Africa on the agenda of the Summit and we are grateful to Chancellor Merkel for her constructive role in that regard.
Our relations with Germany since 1994 have evolved into a very strong political, economic and social partnership and has shown considerable growth in many areas. South Africa instituted a Binational Commission with Germany in 1996 which functions very well and has served as an important vehicle through which to expand and consolidate our relations.
Special mention should be made of the role German business is playing in South Africa in various sectors and the impact on job creation in South Africa. You are aware of the involvement of some of the major automobile companies in South Africa. We continue to see increasing investments in plant and production facilities thereby creating jobs. In this context the Motor Investment Development Plan (MIDP) will be discussed by Chancellor Merkel when she is here.
South Africa ranks as number 30 as a source country for Germany’s imports and number 22 globally as an export destination. Right now, although it varies at times, Germany is South Africa’s largest import partner and the fourth largest export partner after Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The total trade between South Africa and Germany totals R90 billion. It’s a significant trade between the two countries. Once again, the trade balance is in Germany’s favour. We import approximately R57 billion and export R26 billion. Although still heavily skewed in Germany’s favour, we were happy to note that in 2006, South Africa’s exports to Germany increased by approximately 20% whereas in the same period German exports to South Africa grew by 7%. What was also encouraging is that the list of exports to Germany increasingly reflects manufactured and semi-manufactured goods. Export of raw materials is still important but we are happy to note that finished and semi-finished products are gaining ground. Germany is an important trading and investment partner for South Africa.
There are other issues like German tourism to South Africa that continues to grow. This presently amounts to 250 000 German tourists visiting South Africa annually. Germany, together with the United Kingdom, is presently one of the biggest source markets for South African tourism.
We are looking forward to using this visit to further consolidate and strengthen our relations with Germany. We need to expand our political dialogue with Germany and we believe there exists a lot of potential to expand our economic relations. In this regard, we are looking at some of the smaller and medium sized companies who are not yet in South Africa. We are going to embark on a drive with the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry to attract some of the smaller and medium sized enterprises from Germany to South Africa to invest in our country and to create jobs. You are all aware that the smaller and medium sized enterprises form the backbone of the German economy. We will focus on this.
In the context of economic ties, we have been working closely with Germany: Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka hosted the Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg Günther H Oettinger in August. In this meeting with the Deputy President, we focused strongly on the issue of skills development and we hope that during this visit, apart from the need for expanded political dialogue and economic relations, we would also like to enter into a partnership with Germany on the issue of skills development, similar to that we have with Sweden.
I mentioned the question of the G8 and the constructive role played by the Chancellor at Heiligendamm. We will therefore, apart from the bilateral issues, focus on the African challenges and we will continue to appeal to Germany and the others in the G8 to honour their commitments to Africa. There has been very strong support on the part of Germany for the African agenda, amongst others, support for the African Union.
Germany supports, through the European Union, the funding of various peace initiatives in Africa viz. the peace training centre in Ghana, €325 million for the peace mission in Burundi and €250 million via the European Union for AU peace initiatives. Germany currently contributes 8000 troops to peacekeeping initiatives under the UN mandate. Germany recently decided to increase its troop deployment to Afghanistan and has a presence in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Sudan, Liberia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India and Pakistan. Germany therefore has a very active and well established role in peacekeeping.
Germany is also a strong supporter of NEPAD and this will also be one of the issues that will be discussed.
Chancellor Merkel will arrive in South Africa on 4 October 2007 and hold discussions with President Mbeki on 5 October. The Chancellor will be accompanied a number of key business personalities from Germany who will participate in a business roundtable where they will meet with their South African counterparts. This will be followed by a report back to both principals on how relations will be expanded.
As you are aware, there was a very strong commitment from Chancellor Merkel to support South Africa in its hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The LOC has been to Germany many times as have German experts visited South Africa. There will therefore be an event at Soccer City later on 5 October 2007 where there will be fruitful discussions on co-operation between Germany and South Africa. The existing co-operation is excellent. The Chancellor will conclude the day by speaking at a Gala Dinner.
She will visit Cape Town on conclusion of the visit to Gauteng.
We are looking forward to Chancellor Merkel’s first visit to South Africa and raising issues with her.
We will review regional political developments. As you are aware Chancellor Merkel has been playing a very constructive role within the EU context and we would want to hear her views on developments within the European Union.
We will also discuss the German Chairmanship and the G8 and look towards the Chairmanship of Japan in 2008. Within this context we will look at the African Union, NEPAD, developments in SADC, conflict reconstruction and post conflict reconstruction and development and peacekeeping including the need to look at resolving the crisis in Darfur, the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Somalia, etc.
We will also discuss matters of multilateral importance – the World Trade Organisation and Doha Developmental Round, and a matter that is very close to President Mbeki and Chancellor Merkel – climate change, Iran, the Middle East situation.
SOUTH AFRICA – EUROPEAN UNION TROIKA MINISTERIAL MEETING
In 2004 President Mbeki paid a visit to the European Union and after his discussions the EU took a decision to re-appraise in the European Commission and European Union of its relations with South Africa.
Relations at that time were very good and constructive but the Commission felt that South Africa – European Union relations had to be elevated beyond the framework provided for by the South Africa –EU Trade and Development Co-operation Agreement (TDCA) and to move it into a substantive strategic partnership along the lines of relations the EU has with countries like Russia, China, India and Brazil.
These discussions then began and in November 2005, at the SA-EU Development Co-operation Committee we discussed this proposal by the EU and it was decided that steps needed to be taken to ensure that South Africa – EU relations developed into a truly strategic partnership. This was the declaration of intent in November 2005. You may recall that in February 2006, Louis Michel presented President Mbeki with a non paper entitled South Africa – EU relations wherein the EU expressed its desire to elevate its relations with South Africa to a higher level. The President responded to this and indicated that we are prepared to engage the EU on this.
It was obviously of critical important that should we enter into such an arrangement with the EU that we would want to this mechanism to promote the interest of the region and continent. That was contained in all the subsequent documentation. We made this very clear that we would always, in our engagement with the EU, factor in our relations with the region and continent. This was taken forward in a number of meetings including the South Africa – EU Ministerial Troika. The parties agreed that on the Strategic Partnership and that we should continue to work on a joint country strategic paper and look at a joint action plan containing all the elements I just highlighted.
Following this meeting of 14 May 2007 we agreed on a joint action plan for the establishment of a South Africa – EU strategic partnership. Perhaps I can just highlight some of the issues that are contained in this joint action plan: high level political talks in a Troika format twice a year, once in Europe and one in South Africa; ongoing high level ad hoc meetings on issues of common interest; joint co-operation council consisting of senior officials to meet twice a year; and provision for a regular summit with President Mbeki, members of the EU troika and other EU members where necessary. This Strategic Partnership has elevated South Africa’s relations with the EU and the forthcoming SA-EU Ministerial Troika meeting will further strengthen and consolidate this relationship to which we have agreed. We will also focus strongly on trade and economic issues. We would like to use this mechanism to further strengthen trade relations with the European Union and also to revitalise the SA-EU TDCA. As I mentioned, the TDCA will continue to function and remain the cornerstone of our relations. The Strategic Partnership can be considered a TDCA+. This TDCA was signed in 1999 and came into force in 2004. Since then we have been talking to the TDCA to build on and expand the TDCA because this makes provision for a review within 5 years of its entering into force. We have been engaging the EU in 4 negotiating groups: political dialogue, economic, trade and development co-operation to expand and broaden the TDCA. In these various negotiating groupings we have agreed on a host of new issues we will discuss with the EU in the spirit of the Strategic Partnership and for instance, in the political dialogue negotiating group we are looking at issues of money laundering, combating trade in illicit drugs, international terrorism, combating organised crime. We are really then in the process of expanding the TDCA as a pillar of our relations with the EU.
As far as the review of the trade chapters of the TDCA are concerned that was delinked from this broader review and is being considered within the context of the EU-SADC EPA negotiations – to harmonise the TDCA with the SADC-EU EPA negotiations is not an easy road. We are having constructive discussions in taking both these issues forward.
This meeting will take place on 10 October 2007 and will be co-chaired by Minister Dlamini Zuma and the Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Armado and EU President at the moment.
Some of the issues that will be discussed: bilateral issues: the environment, migration, peace and security co-operation, dialogue on human rights; on the regional issues we will talk about the EU-Africa Summit, EU-SADC EPA negotiations, United Nations Security Council issues where both sides have great interests, the Doha negotiations, post-election and post-conflict areas in Africa. The important thing is to take the Strategic Partnership and TDCA Review processes forward in a meaningful way.
Questions and answers
Question Ambassador, will the German Chancellor address Parliament?
Answer Unfortunately, Parliament will be in recess and will therefore not be able to. Had the dates permitted, she would have addressed Parliament. It is expected that she will present her keynote address at the Gala Dinner on the evening of the 5 th October 2007.
Question Ambassador, you mentioned the SA-EU Troika – could you please elaborate?
Answer It is South Africa and the EU Troika consisting of the current President ( Portugal), future President ( Slovenia) and EU Commission.
Question Ambassador can you indicate South Africa’s position on (inaudible)
Answer As you are aware, if the EPA is not concluded by the end of the year or before the waiver of the Cotonou Agreement (there was a waiver on the Cotonou Agreement because it does not comply with WTO rules) at the end of the year, and we not have the EPAs in place, there could be negative consequences for countries in the SADC region, particularly Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland.
We as South Africa would not really be affected because we have the TDCA in place but for these countries they will have to revert to the more onerous general system of preferences (GSP). It is important to work towards the conclusion of the agreement by the end of the year.
I can just say that we have made progress on a number of areas and we continue to narrow down the differences and divergences between both parties. One of the major areas of contention is the issue of the inclusion of so-called new generation issues in the EPA agreement. My colleagues in the DTI assure me they are confident that this EPA can be finalized before the Cotonou Agreement expires. In latest discussions, they have made progress on some of the issues including market access. South Africa and some of our partners in the region have been reluctant to make commitments on new generation issues such as government procurement and competition, etc. For us to make commitments in the limited time will be difficult. You will require concessions from both sides. The EU continues to define development issues in a way that serves the interests of the EU. We need to discuss the impact of legally binding issues and new generation issues on countries within southern Africa.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
26 September 2007