Remarks by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, during the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Meeting of Heads of State and Government with CEO's, Brasilia, Brazil

Your Excellency, President Lula da Silva,
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Singh,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Business Leaders,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to thank our host, President Lula da Siva, his government and the people of Brazil for having made it possible for all of us to meet here in Brasilia for the first summit of IBSA as well as ensuring that we have the opportunity to engage with leaders of business and academia from our countries.

As many of us would be aware, countries that constitute IBSA have had bilateral relationships for many years but also as developing countries we have been collaborating on many issues that are central to the development of the countries of the South.

IBSA is an idea whose time has arrived. It is a necessary response to the current state of play in the global economy and its purpose and objectives are even more relevant in the context of the collapsed Doha development round of talks.

One of the messages communicated by the collapse of Doha talks is that, for countries of the South to realise rapid development including fair trade, economic development, job creation and poverty eradication, these developing countries, should, first and foremost, form strong partnerships and strategic alliances that would unlock the vast resources and economic opportunities within and between their countries and regions.

Of course this does not mean we will not engage developed countries. Of importance, however, is that there are greater possibilities for the developing countries to accelerate the processes of their own development by harnessing common strengths, which include business partnerships and cooperation, exchange of expertise and collaboration of related industries as well as exchange programmes between our institutions of higher learning.

Fortunately, India, Brazil and South Africa, share a coincidence of interests in so far as we have common hopes, aspirations and challenges and through IBSA have created a platform from which we can attend to these many and varied challenges.

This interaction, with the leadership of the business community in our countries is very important because the successes that we seek in the areas that we have identified cannot be achieved if we don't forge alliances with the business sector.

Indeed, the working groups of IBSA have been active for over three years and they sketch an optimistic outlook for our common trade interests. In this regard, a number of agreements have been signed and will continue to be signed as we deepen our co-operation and economic integration.

But these agreements can only mean something if and when they are implemented. In this regard, the role of business is very critical.

In the past, three key areas of trilateral cooperation were identified, namely energy, transport and climate change. As we review progress in these areas it is important that we also assess the role of business, academia and other structures of civil society in helping us develop safe, renewable, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy sources. We have to examine whether we are able to work together with all sectors of our societies to ensure that the poor in our countries, both in the rural and urban areas, are able to access affordable energy.

As we know, IBSA, as an important South-South axis, offers greater business opportunities from maritime and aviation perspectives; it creates opportunities for better movement of goods and people between three great continents and thus ensure increased business prospects.

Indeed, there are many other areas that we need closer cooperation with the business leadership. This includes the area of agriculture, especially with regard to research, trade and the role of agriculture in rural development.

Again, business is central to the on-going challenges of information and communication technology and the role of ICT in development in our countries and regions.

All of us will agree that because our countries are endowed with a wealth of natural resources it should also be natural that there is closer cooperation between the IBSA countries in the areas of mining, beneficiation and energy.

The work of IBSA in these different areas should be seen within the context of other agreements such as the concluded bilateral Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) between Mercosur and India and SACU and the planned one between India and the South African Customs Union (SACU).

Beyond the bilateral agreements, we are exploring the prospect of a Trilateral Free Trade Agreement (TFTA). Such an outcome would be without precedent in the global trading system; therefore, it is critical that we do it properly.

This Agreement should be capable of delivering on the developmental challenges we face, challenges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment. The agreements we model should provide leadership and creative economic impetus to the global system of trade, which delivers little to the many and too much to the few.

The entrepreneurs gathered here today, represent some of the best and most successful businesses in our countries and even in the world. While your immediate responsibility is to ensure that your shareholders get good returns on their investments, at the same time, however, together, business and our governments, carry the hopes and aspirations of a very big share of humanity.

Similarly, I have no doubt that the intelligentsia that has been part of these interactions will, through the originality of the intellectual capital that academia provides underpin a strong policy platform which is required to manufacture robust debates and practical policies.

Accordingly, together we need to forge a close working relationship, so, as government works to create the enabling environment, the business community and academia would help to unlock the social and economic value and true potential of IBSA's socio-economic integration.

We hope you are able to give meaning to the trade dimension of this unique relationship, which can permeate throughout our societies to small enterprises, to women to the youth and to all the margins of our societies.

To give validity to the ambitions of IBSA, the Business communities in all three countries should explore what it is that they can trade between and among each other.

Those who adopt a localised rather than a global view of opportunities might suggest that the three countries are competitors and would find it difficult to open their markets to each other. However, I am confident that those of us gathered here and our colleagues who are not with us, would agree that the opportunities far outweigh the threats.

Undoubtedly, IBSA presents our business communities with an opportunity to build the types of networks and critical mass that is required to play a leading role in the global value chain and economy.

IBSA presents an opportunity for the creation of a supply chain across the South that could be attractive to global companies in sectors like agriculture, automotives, aerospace, information and communication technologies, biotechnology, energy, infrastructure, mining, transport and shipping, and tourism.
It may be appropriate to ask the question whether our business community has taken advantage of these various opportunities that are opened-up by IBSA agreements. Alternatively, it may well be that our individual or joint regulatory regimes militates against doing business in our countries as well as the easy movement of goods and people.

If so, let us identify such constrains so that we use the platform created through IBSA to help develop our economies and grow our businesses so that they become very strong and competitive globally while being part of the forces that fight poverty and underdevelopment.

While IBSA is still in its early stages of development, this being the first summit, the opportunities for our business people are clearly enormous. What it evolves into will be a function of our joint commitment and participation. I have all the faith that working together, all of us gathered here and the billions of people that we represent, would soon be proud that this initiative, IBSA, is beginning to bring a better life to all.

Thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
13 September 2006


 

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