Minister Dlamini Zuma´s Address during the Opening Session of the 3rd IBSA Ministerial Trilateral Commission, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 30 March 2006

Your Excellency Ambassador Celso Amorim,
Your Excellency Minister Anand Sharma,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
Leaders of the Focal Point,
Leaders of the Business Delegations,
Senior Officials,
Friends

At the instance of our meeting in Rio de Janeiro we would be obliged to enquire on the level of progress and significance that this forum has hitherto established. It is particularly important to do so because our Principals are about to converge and attest to the relevance of IBSA to the world.

The key challenge will be whether this Dialogue Forum has in any significant fashion achieved its objectives. Perhaps the question to ask is whether any impact has occurred as a consequence of our existence, has the world remained the same, or has any ground shifted since our founding.

The depth of this question is in the history and purpose of our founding. A short visit to 2003 will be instructive and I propose to do so by recalling our founding principles. As many of you will recall, we did boldly proclaim to the world that we shall seek a deeper consultative process between and amongst ourselves. This we would do to enhance our common positions in the multilateral fora.

We further proclaimed the desire to grow trilateral cooperation measures. To this end we imagined that if one of us was strong in a particular area and field and the other in another, a collective exploitation of our individual strengths would put our resources into better use and ensure greater impact.

We further proclaimed at the time that we shall seek to exist not in exclusion and sole benefit to ourselves, that in the spirit of common and balanced development we shall seek to contribute our efforts, resources and energies to those causes in our neighbourhoods that we shall collectively deem deserving. We committed ourselves to the possibility of moving the fight against poverty beyond the realm and borders off our respective countries.

Your Excellencies, we dreamt of an IBSA that would have a program of action, an IBSA that would not be limited to an interaction amongst governments only, but an IBSA that would spread its relevance to business, academia and all other organs of civil society.

We proclaimed that we should seek to construct a new paradigm and philosophical grounding in the manner in which we would shift the emphasis of the North -South trade axis. That we will also think it important to invest confidence in ourselves and the ability to trade with each other and create a South South horizontal axle.

Time has come for us to reevaluate our modest dreams and check the reality score, so that we can find the legitimacy of our Principals making bold of their yesterday's dreams to the world. We have taken small steps towards our dreams and perhaps for me some of the significant areas:

Multilateral Cooperation

From small beginnings of initiating dialogue between and amongst ourselves on international trade issues, we have changed the manner in which business had been constructed. Without embellishment I think it would be correct to assert that our collective interventions in calling the G20 into being, has produced an indelible constructive mark on the negotiations on trade in the WTO.

Acknowledging that the road ahead is still marred with real hardships and difficulties, it would also be fair to say that the G20 has set the development agenda in an irreversible mode. The future is reassuring and the course for South-South cooperation has never been more real.

The three of us can jointly proclaim that common positions and galvanizing unity on common purpose is formidable. The recent formation of NAMA 11 attests to this determination.

We have acted in common purpose and consort in the fight for the reform of the United Nations. Whilst that fight is not yet over but clearly our areas of common convergence have become more pronounced. Our separate and collective attitude and regard to the progress in the attainment of the Millennium Declaration Goals stand us in good stead. The determination to succeed in this regard and urge those in our neighbourhoods to do the same suggest that if we persevere it may that hope will triumph over despondency and a new reality will emerge, we may banish poverty for a sizeable number of our populations.

Technical Cooperation Issues

Our agenda has over time found a more focused expression on those issues that would produce most progress and set us up on an independent and competitive footing. During the UNGA 60 session and meeting on its wing, our Principals have pointed us in the right direction as they correctly alluded to the need for concerted efforts in evolving intervention strategies on questions of Energy, ICT, Transport, Trade and Investments. Let me give attention to each of these:

Energy

It has become abundantly clear that reliance on fossil fuels as sources of energy have imposed constraints on our development now and in the future. Work is thus apace to share both experiences and innovative technologies in developing alternatives sources of energy. Serving as platforms for such discussions will continue to be the knowledge base that the three countries have on bio-fuels such as ethanol production and others.

ICT

The challenge to enhance our competitive edge rests in our ability to fortify our efforts to be on the cutting edge of innovation in as far as information and technological competence is concerned. We will be well served if our societies are able to grapple with the requirement to close the digital gab and remove ignorance. Progress towards e-governance for a better delivery of services to our people is afoot and negotiations towards an IBSA website is in progress

Transport

Obvious advantages in the area of transportation of goods between our respective continents have evidently begged for an elaborate plan on both maritime and air service transportation. It is expected of our technical experts to elaborate on these plans and bring them into operation soon.

The benefits seem obvious and yet significant in changing the landscapes of our economies. Development of logistics, infrastructure and transshipment hubs will enhance our flow of trade, facilitate movements of persons and bring tourism potential to its full realization.

Trade and Investment

Whilst the potential between our countries has always looked us in the eye, it is true that we have hitherto not fully realized such. Walking back the memory lane, perhaps it would be prudent to recall our joint resolve to have established greater trade flows, something in the order of US $ 10 billion. Inspired by New Delhi, it could have been said we were too ambitious or motivated by dreams of zealous persons.

Consistent with the requirement to let hard work transform yesterday's dreams into today's reality the signs for this potential to be realized is there. As at 2005, trade between Brazil and South Africa is US$1.7 billion, Brazil and India is US$ 2.3 billion, and these are signs of growth and achievement in that direction.

In our quest to succeed in this regard we have since realized the signing of the SACU/MERCUSUR preferential trade and also MERCUSUR/India preferential. The IBSA countries are also in the process of harmonizing the said process of preferential trade arrangements.

Excellencies, in 2003 we made bold of our desire to ensure a non-insular regard to the importance and significance of IBSA. We expressed the desire to have ensured that IBSA was not an exclusive prerogative of government, but that it would anchor its legitimacy of broad based acceptance and embracement by civil society. Not only have we in this regard founded the Business Council to which our businesspersons have taken to with enthusiasm. A year later since Cape Town and the launch , the three countries have steadfastly maintained interest and will report new outcomes on their engagement.

We recall with pride and humility our engagement in Guinea Bissau. We are hopeful that our small intervention will make a difference in the lives of ordinary people touched by that project. We look forward to the projects in Haiti and Palestine taking root and similarly producing a positive effect.

In conclusion, let me turn my attention to yet an important issue that commonly confront the three of us including fellow developing countries. This is the issue of the REACH legislation. As you will recall, this is the European Union legislation on Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals.

Colleagues will recall that the legislation finds its legitimacy in the WSSD article 20 of the Johannesburg Plan of Action.

We are thus intrinsically not opposed to the spirit of the legislation but are perturbed by the unintended negative consequences of the legislation. The requirement to register about 30 000 chemicals covered by the scope of the legislation will impose a cost burden of approximately E9.2 billion on developing countries, will take at least 18 months to register an item and so forth.

If REACH were to be implemented in its current form, it would wreak havoc and stunt the development of our economies. The legislation would act as a Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT); the effect on trade regarding minerals, ores, chemicals, textiles and metals is simply enormous and devastating. We are thus obliged towards common purpose and action to develop a unifying program of action to negotiate a better dispensation.

I thank you

 

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