Opening Statement by Minister Dlamini Zuma at 7th Session of the Joint Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-Operation between South Africa and the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia, Friday 23 May 2008
Members of the Russian delegation
Members of the South African delegation
Ladies and gentlemen
Minister, I wish to congratulate the Russian Federation and its people on the recent election of the new government. I wish President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin success in their execution of the mandate that the people of Russia have entrusted upon them.
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to participate in the 7th session of the ITEC Ministerial meeting which remains a critical vehicle for the strengthening of bilateral trade and economic relations between South Africa and the Russian Federation. We had the opportunity to meet in Moscow in February, for the 4th inter-sessional ITEC meeting in order to monitor progress and to provide guidance towards the expansion of our relationship. These high level engagements continue to enhance our strategic political and economic partnership. More importantly, our commitment to time-bound outputs will go a long way in ensuring that ITEC deepens our trade and economic relations.
I have been informed that solid progress has been made in the field of Science and Technology. It is heartening to note substantial progress has been registered in the launch of the Sumbandila satellite and the likelihood of the finalisation of this project in the near future.
There have been positive development in the co-operation in the nanotechnology and biotechnology spheres. The meeting of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Cape Town in April 2008 augurs well for further scientific co-operation between South Africa and the Russian Federation.
There is still an urgent need though, to expeditiously conclude the Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Qualifications as this will open up numerous opportunities in various sectors especially as this relates to skills acquisition and exchange of expertise in line with South Africa’s Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA).
In June 2008, a health delegation will embark upon a fact-finding mission to the Russian Federation institutions, inter alia, they will interact with health professionals and medical institutions. This is likely to result in the enhancement of co-operation in this sector.
On matters related to co-operation in the field of water and forestry affairs, I have been informed of positive developments in water conservation and fire fighting, an area in which the Russian Federation possess extensive skills.
Co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is proceeding with satisfaction. Good progress has been registered by PBMR and Tenex on one hand and Eskom and Tenex on the other. We should strive for continued exchange of information and expertise in uranium enrichment. In this vein, we should continue to encourage joint ventures in mining in both countries.
There has been encouraging progress on the Draft Airworthiness Agreement and I wish to commend the Russian Federation for elevating the status of the Agreement to be concluded on government-to-government level. This will undoubtedly expedite the conclusion of the Airworthiness Agreement. On this score, I fervently wish to encourage direct contact between our technical experts to resolve outstanding issues.
The Draft Agreement on Plant Quarantine is almost ready for conclusion during the next ITEC engagement.
It is encouraging to note that our two countries are considering the Agreement on the Reciprocal Protection of Investments. Furthermore, the Department of Trade and Industry’s November 2008 trade and investment mission to Russia will further enhance trade and economic co-operation between the two countries. I wish to commend the good work of the Russian chapter of the Business Council and further commit to do our best to operationalise the South African chapter of the Business Council.
Mr Minister, Africa is engaged in a deep and fundamental renewal process within the context of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The over-arching objectives of this process are to consolidate and promote political stability and economic development, and improve Africa’s capacity to defend and advance her interests in the global arena.
In this regard, Minister, South Africa encourages the mainstreaming of the African Agenda, as well as the developmental agenda of the South in our bilateral and multilateral engagements.
Returning to the present Minister, this 7th session of ITEC provides us with an opportunity to once again assess the progress made, consolidate our achievements, address challenges and chart the way forward on future programmes.
Our Joint Sub-Committees will be briefing this meeting on the progress made in the fields covered by ITEC. I am aware that our delegations have been hard pressed recently to develop further programmes of co-operation between our two countries. Minister Trutnev, I am sure that you would agree that our strategic partnership stands to benefit from these deliberations.
I wish to conclude by again thanking you and your delegation for inviting us to Moscow for yet another important session of ITEC.
Thank you Mr Minister.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
23 May 2008