Conclusion of 6th South Africa - Russia Joint Inter-Governmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-Operation

(Minister Dlamini Zuma) As you know we have just concluded the 6th session of the South Africa - Russia Joint Inter-Governmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-Operation (ITEC).

This session has been quite constructive and of course, we were building on the momentum created by the visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin to South Africa in September last year. We are also working towards the visit of the Russian Prime Minister which we hope will be in March 2007. These visits indicate a lot of momentum in relations between both countries.

We have seen a lot of improvement in the work of ITEC. When the ITEC was established, we did not have a legal framework for our co-operation. We have had to do a lot of work in putting together the legal framework for our co-operation in various fields.

As you know, we intend doing a lot of work together on issues of: Minerals and Energy; Natural Resources; Water; Forestry.

We are also doing and intend strengthening co-operation in Science and technology ranging from the use of biotechnology, nanotechnology, co-operation in outer space for peaceful use, scientific research, exchange of scientists - a whole range of issues around science and technology are on the table for co-operation.

We are putting in place the framework for co-operation in transport - mainly maritime and road transport. We will concentrate on these.

We are also doing a lot of work and intend working on co-operation in social issues - education and health - in the form of the exchange of information and personnel, and training.

We do all of this within the context of improving economic and trade co-operation which would mean creating a better life for our peoples.

As you can imagine, trade and industry is one of our major areas of co-operation. We have therefore had very fruitful discussions and we are happy with the work we have done in this session.

(Minister Yury Trutnev) During the session co-hosted by Minister Dlamini Zuma yesterday we discussed that the major task facing the ITEC in the creation of a legislative framework for our co-operation. This is now coming to its conclusion.

There are agreements signed and those ready to be signed between our two countries including all major spheres.

The visit of President Putin to South Africa and discussions between President Mbeki and President Putin added a significant contribution to this work. Now as you know, the visit of the Russian Prime Minister is being arranged and this is another sign of the interest that both countries have in the co-operation between us both.

I would like to also thank Minister Dlamini Zuma without whose constructive leadership and energy this work would be impossible.

It is evident that the next step in our work would be to fill up the space created by the legislative framework with real projects.

The increase of economic relations would definitely lead to the improvement of life for the peoples of both countries.

All projects that have been started by Russian companies in South Africa and South African companies in Russia are successfully continuing. As you know big Russian companies are now working in South Africa among whom is Renova. A Russian aluminum company is very interested in exploring co-operation with South Africa.

There is also very successful co-operation between both countries in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

I am confident that both countries have a strong basis for co-operation and friendship between our peoples. We will do our best to use all opportunities available to us.

(Minister Dlamini Zuma) I would like to add as a follow up, you will recall that when President Putin visited South Africa he was accompanied by a sizeable business delegation. In May 2007 a South African business delegation will visit the Russian Federation because the work that must be done must be also done by business. Government has created the environment, now business must identify opportunities and set up projects.

Questions and answers

Question Minister, please expand on the co-operation between both countries in the field of nuclear energy. Have agreements in this regard been signed? Could you also please indicate the status on the agreement regarding uranium enrichment?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) No agreements were signed by the two governments during this session of the ITEC. There were agreements signed by business in terms of mining uranium between Renovo and Harmony.

As you know, South Africa is already using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. We will be expanding in this area. We are a very faithful signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which allows us to be assisted with nuclear energy for peaceful use because we are not proliferating and we abide by all the rules of the NPT. We will be further looking at this area.

The mining has to be done by the mining companies but we will be looking at this issue. This is a new issue that will be incorporated into our relations - not entirely new but one that will be expanded upon. There are no agreements to be signed at present.

(Minister of Minerals and Energy-Buyelwa Sonjica) I would want to add that this co-operation would include mining and local beneficiation which is in line with our own policy. The Russian Federation has agreed to co-operate with us on local beneficiation.

(Minister Yury Trutnev) We have a basic agreement on the peaceful use of atomic energy and we have an interest in expanding co-operation.

Minister Dlamini Zuma today agreed to create within the framework of the ITEC Commission - a special sub-committee that would deal with the peaceful use of nuclear energy. As you know, the head of the atomic energy agency is a member of our delegation and we are interested in the continuation of this work.

Question: Minister, there have been reports of Russian companies wanting to acquire large stakes in South African companies. Is this in the best interests of South Africa?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) South Africa and Russia have agreed that we will work together in the area of, among others, minerals and energy.

I do not think there is a push for Russian companies to buy into South African mining companies. I do however think there is a desire, which we welcome, for Russian companies to develop joint venture projects with their South African counterparts in the mining area and also to assist with the transfer of technology, especially with people partnering with others who have not been traditionally involved in mining.

Leveling of the playing field also includes bringing people into the mining industry who have not historically been in this environment. This is part of government's policy to encourage BEE mining projects and Russia is willing to have joint ventures with those BEE companies. This is therefore an area of mutual benefit and interest.

(Minister Yury Trutnev) We are taking all necessary steps to ensure that co-operation between our two countries will be harmonious. We are absolutely certain that businesses can only be successful with the interests of both sides being accounted for.

There are two examples: if we speak about the Kalahari-Manganese project that began with exploration - before any profit was seen, the Russian side invested money in the exploration and study of resources. Within the framework of this project, a training centre was established.

Speaking about the possible co-operation with Harmony: this is also a very interesting basis for co-operation because we plan to use waste tables for the mining of uranium which are not presently used. Russia offers in exchange, gold deposits mined in Russia.

(Minister Dlamini Zuma) To add, the manganese that will be mined, will also be value-added within South Africa. Renova has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Spoornet in order to be able to transport the manganese to Coega with Eskom so that there can be beneficiation.

This is very much in line with what we would like to do.

Question: Minister, is there any movement toward relaxing visa applications?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) We did not necessarily discuss this during this session. If you recall, there was a suggestion at some stage to impose transit visas. This matter was resolved through the ITEC and this is no longer happening.

If there is further improvement that must happen, we will be happy to discuss and deal with this matter through the ITEC.

Question: Minister is there any movement towards the recognition of students diplomas?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) In this regard, a working group has been established and will meet in the first half of 2007 to look at the qualifications and the mutual recognition of qualifications. They will hopefully come up with some solutions in this regard.

Question Minister, how much are you prepared to invest in nuclear power stations in South Africa?

Answer (Minister Yury Trutnev) We will invest as much as is needed should we win the tender.

Off course, the final decision regarding whether Russia will participate in the building of a nuclear power plant will depend on the South African government. The only thing that I can say, that we will support the project should we be successful in our bid.

Within the next twenty years, Russia intends to build between 40 and 60 nuclear units in only the territory of Russia. We are also continuously building nuclear units all over the world.

(Minister Dlamini Zuma) We have discussed this matter and the Russian Federation has agreed to work with us right from the mining stage to nuclear energy, ie. throughout the process. Russia is also willing to build nuclear stations if we require.

The details of the costs involved have not been worked out since as you know, we have only now formed the sub-committee to look into the specifics. We had initially only had a global framework for nuclear co-operation for peaceful purposes. We have agreed that we will co-operate throughout the process.

Question: Minister, is there interest from South Africa to invest in Russia?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) There are actually some South African companies based in Russia - Anglo-American, South African Breweries, Sun International.

We are also looking at the exchange of information so that more Russian companies can come to South Africa to investigate opportunities and vice versa. This interest is mutual.

(Minister Yury Trutnev) The diamond company De Beers has been working in Russia for a long time and is interested in continuing this relationship. Anglo-American is also investigating a proposal for a paper-processing plant. The Ministry of Minerals is participating in this process.

Question: Minister, the talks re: nuclear co-operation - will this involve the second power plant that was announced earlier?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) Not yet, this matter is now being discussed and there is no finality. South Africa will extend a tender process - this is how we do our business - Russia will participate in an open tender. Russia did participate in the initial tender and they will do so again.

Question: Minister Trutnev, are you able to comment on the issue between Washington and the Kremlin regarding?

Answer This matter was not discussed during this session of the ITEC. I will be happy to discuss matters directly relating to the ITEC or to my portfolio as Minister of Minerals of the Russian Federation - water, forests, resources, minerals.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

22 February 2007

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