Closing Remarks by Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and her Counterpart Martha Lomas Morales on the Conclusion of the 5th Session of the South Africa-Cuba JBC

Remarks by Minister Martha Lomas Morales

Thank you very much, I would like to say we have concluded this working session of both our countries and we have been able to detail the agreement on the with the precisions of our technicians during these working days of our experts.

I would like to thank, on behalf of myself and my delegation, all of the excellent working conditions and hospitality with which South Africa has received us.  We would like to thank you for your gestures of friendship during these days – not just the material conditions but the friendship, warmth and common understanding between our two delegations.

With the closing of this commission we have to see a new era of work and co-operation between our two countries.  We have had five sessions and we can say that we today have sectors where there has been sustained work that we must continue to strengthen.

But we are in a new stage of co-operation as Minister Dlamini Zuma has said where we have to increase our trade and economic relations and also diversify our work in other spheres in which we have not yet worked.  We have adopted all the necessary decisions, we have identified our interests and now, as the Ambassador has said, we need to express each of the agreements and memoranda that we have signed in concrete programmes where we will be able to evaluate our work and co-operation. 

Once again, thank you to you all.

We await you in Cuba in 2009 for the 6 th session of the JBC.

Thank you very much.

Remarks by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

Thank you very much.

As Minister has said, we have concluded the 5 th session of the South Africa – Cuba JBC.  Our officials and experts began working four days ago and have been working to conclude this work.  So we now have a very clear roadmap in terms of our work which should guide us for the next two years until as the Minister has said, we get to Havana in 2009.

We are also happy that the depth and breadth of this joint commission has been increasing but off course, most of the work of a JBC happens between sessions of the JBC.  The Commissions merely indicate what work needs to be done and the work begins to implement what has been agreed upon.  So we hope there will be a lot of shuttling between capitals with a view to concretising and implementing the work we mapped out for ourselves.

I would like to thank all of you, the Cuban and South African delegations for your hard work and wish the Cuban delegation a happy journey home.  We hope to see some of you during the Diaspora Conference to be hosted next week.  This is a temporary goodbye.

I would like to thank our Ambassadors – even though the Cuban Ambassador is not here – she has been doing a lot of work between JBCs, the South African Ambassador and our Missions in Cuba and Pretoria.

I wish you all the best.

Thank you.

Questions and answers

Question           Minister Dlamini Zuma, could you please provide more information on the clear roadmap that has been outlined?  Could Minister Morales comment on her comment regarding the new stage of co-operation between both countries?

Answer               (Minister Dlamini Zuma) I am sure you will receive a more detailed report but if I start with trade: we have identified this as a challenge and we have agreed that we are going to establish a task team of officials from both countries to really pay more attention to this area to see how we can turn this around and improve the trade and economic co-operation between our two countries.  So this has been identified as a big challenge although not an insurmountable one.

There are other areas that have been working very well – viz. health co-operation has been very stable, both with Cuban doctors in South Africa and with South Africa training some of our students in Cuba, the Cuban government providing 60 scholarships for those students. 

There has also been ongoing co-operation in terms of lecturers lecturing at the Walter Sisulu University who reside in South Africa for three years at a time.  This has been there for a long time.

We also have good co-operation in science and technology and social welfare.  We have got very good programmes in housing, water, public works.  We have got a programme that we will be working on in the field of minerals and energy.  Off course, we also have to work on communication.

So there is a whole range on justice, etc.

There is a whole battery of co-operation projects.

As you know, Cuba is very well known, not only for its health services but education and skills development so we have co-operation in the education sector.  There is co-operation in maths and science and we are now looking at a programme on literacy development. 

Cuba is a very active sporting country, as is South Africa.  They also have very good training facilities.

So there is a whole range of co-operation that is underway and I am sure you will receive a full report.  I am just providing the highlights.

We have a lot to work on in the coming two years.

I will however be the first to admit that our trade relations are a big challenge.

 (Minister Lomas Morales)  I believe that the Minister has clearly articulated where the challenges remain.  I was saying that there is a new era because as you know, we signed the JBC in 2001.  We have since begun a programme of co-operation between our two countries in order to define our relations.

As the Minister has said, we have a few sectors where the work has been established, consolidated and we will continue to do new things.  One of the few sectors we began co-operating in was in the health sector.  There is a group of doctors who have been in South Africa for more than 10 years and today we see new areas in the health co-operation, not only what exists but new things which will be a further step in what we are doing.

We can also say the same for other sectors mentioned by the Minister: the preparation of human resources that was one of the main programmes from the first years of our co-operation.  347 professionals have graduated in the teaching sector and today we have been able to grant 60 scholarships for the health sector, viz. the study of medicine.

All of this is important but we have developed further steps: we know each other well and the needs of each other, how we can assist you in several sectors and we believe, as the Minister has said, that trade is a major challenge.  We have various ways of addressing this on the basis of new steps in trade.  We will be able to create joint ventures amongst our countries that will be able to strengthen all this co-operation that has been developed up to now.

We are currently concluding the 5 th session of the JBC and we believe that in the 6 th session we will be able to deliver even better reports than in this session.

Since we began in 2001, we have advanced enormously in terms of co-operation.  There are now 17 sectors in which we have co-operation projects.

Question           Could both Ministers provide more information in terms of the challenges to trade and economic relations?

Answer               (Minister Dlamini Zuma) Well firstly, trade and economic relations between both countries is almost non-existent.  This is a glaring challenge.  So that is the challenge.  But off course, there are objective and subjective reasons why this is so and we have to try and overcome these.

Cuba for instance is a long distance away from South Africa and is not a traditional trading partner, for obvious reasons.  So it is a partnership we have to build.  We have to look at how to get round some of the difficulties that we have identified.  So, it is something we are working on and we have set ourselves goals that will see us turning this around.  So we have to start.  So this why we have established a special task team to look at the obstacles and how we can get around these obstacles.  This will be achieved tomorrow but we are serious about working on it.

(Ambassador Mtinso) Minister, I wanted to add a small but significant detail: one of the other challenges to this economic relationship is the fact that business is in the hands of the private sector and government has limited influence over this.

Cuba is under what is termed a “blockade” imposed by the United States of America for more than 45 years.  One of the elements of this, is that when a business enterprise wants to enter into relations with Cuba, they have to ascertain the response of the Americans because if that enterprise has any business with America it will suffer from the blockade itself.

The other element is that if you trade, eg. in minerals and you look at nickel – Cuba has some of the largest nickel deposits – but if you want to trade or invest in nickel in Cuba, you will have to assess the market in which you will sell your nickel because if any of the products have more than 10% of Cuban nickel in the final product, you will not be able to sell that product in any of the markets associated with America – not only will you be restricted from selling your products in America but in any market in which American companies are based.

If businesses want to realise a profit as would be their objective then they would have to weigh the advantages of trading with Cuba.  They will have to assess the effect on their profit margins, even those South African companies.

 (Minister Dlamini Zuma) This may be why we are looking at a different type of trade relationship with Cuba – perhaps the State will become more involved in terms of what can be traded between the two countries.

I do not think it would work, as the Ambassador has said, if it is just left to the private sector.  The State has to be a bit more involved in navigating these difficulties.

(Minister Morales) I would like to add, because the Minister and the Ambassador, have explained very well the difficulties that exist, that when you have the will as does exist between both governments, we will be able to overcome these difficulties.  We will have to see how we can do it.

We have identified some products.  We have those in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry that have been available in small quantities in South Africa for some time.  These are good products that we can use as a basis for continuing trade.

There are also some South African products that can be traded in Cuba but we will have to evaluate how the blockade affects this.

But don’t be afraid, we have had about 50 years of the blockade and while more effort is required it is possible to overcome such circumstances.  We have found a total will amongst the South African authorities to overcome this situation.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
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9 November 2007


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