Transcript Copy: Comments by Ministers Dlamini Zuma and Trutnev During Media Briefing Following the ITEC Intersessional Meeting, Durban, South Africa
Comments by Minister Dlamini Zuma
This is a meeting of the delegation from Russian Federation and the South African Republic. We have an Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) that meets every years to look at cooperation particularly in the field of trade and economic spheres between Russia and South Africa, and between those meetings we have what we call Inter-sessional which meets six monthly just to check how far we are going with the decisions that we made at the ITEC meetings so that if they are any problems we try and solve them and that we don’t wait for a year to find that there was a problem that could have been solved. So this is that Intersessional meeting but of course we have had very good discussions in areas of science and technology.
We have been cooperating in science and technology and in a wide range of areas in the areas of space technology, in the area of biotechnology and computing and we are now looking at the satellite progress that we may launch this year. Of course the Russians have been working with us and we are hoping that it will be launched from the Russian Federation some time in the first half next year.
We have also planned to have a space agency there, and they are going to assist us with the formulation of policy, training and so on. We are also hoping to have a workshop in Cape Town where we will be discussing issues of lunar technology, bio-technology and so on. We have also discussed areas of minerals and energy, cooperation in mining, cooperation in nuclear technology and we are now looking at whether we can have other concrete projects that we can have between the two countries.
In mining we have started with some projects and we have ongoing work there and there is work in trade and industry field, agriculture as well but we are also looking at trade in agricultural products, agro-processing and some of the technology that is involved there. We are looking at increasing level of trade between the two countries but we are also talking of Business Council to put our business together to make investment on either side and at the same time improve our trade and our economic cooperation.
We are discussing issues like transport as you know we cannot have trade without proper transport between the two countries so there is cooperation in that area. We are looking at training and in that context we are looking at mutual recognition of qualification so that if we send our people to train in the Russian Federation there are no problems when they come back here as engineers and inspectors and we are also looking at South Africans going to Russia for whatever their qualifications should also be recognized. But we also if we want to exchange scientists we should do that without hindrance. But also we are looking at scholarship and so on so there is a whole range of discussion around education. There are discussions around justice because all the legal frameworks we should have them in place so that we can cooperate properly. We also discussed issues around movement of people, the visas for diplomatic and official passports we can be able to move between our two countries as we do this work.
Our cooperation is much wider than these sectors. These are the sectors that are meeting today but the cooperation includes a whole range of other sectors.
So this is just a short background.
Comments by Minister Trutnev
I would like to say that the Committee has gone a long way and has changed for the better. When we started our work we set our selves the goals of raising the levels of trade and economic ties so that it could be adequate to relations of trust and friendship exist between our two countries. The past time we have been able to achieve great progress in terms of building legal framework for our cooperation, we signed a number agreements necessary for further development of our cooperation between our two countries. The list of agreements is quite long but I will not be dwelling but I would like to mention that according to the information received the South Africa side had recently ratified the basic bilateral instrument which treaty on friendship and partnership between republic of SA and Russia. And a number of draft agreements are currently being finalized. I will just mention the two namely, air-worthiness agreement and the plant guarantee. This is the necessary part of the work of the ITEC. The main task is the, I believe, is development of the practical cooperation in order to implement specific the projects. In this regard we have development quite a lot. We did not talk today about our desires we spoke about specific and concrete projects. We discussed the date of the launch of the satellite which has to be done to in order to implement Manganese project, the action plan for cooperation in the field of water resources and forestry has just been signed. These are all specific and concrete things. After six months of this year the volume of trade between out two countries actually equals twelve months of last year. In conclusion I would like to say my general impression is ITEC is that it is working count. These subcommittees have found common language and ground, identified areas of cooperation and made practical steps to achieve the goals they set for themselves. From the function which we started with them to launch the process the function has changed. So now the work is in progress we need to identify areas where there are difficulties.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is the progress on finalising the two agreements on visa waiver agreement and the recognition of qualifications?
Secondly how is cooperation in mining, do you think there is reciprocal interest in this area?
Answer: [Minister Trutnev] First of all on the waiver of visa agreement mean that we are talking about holders of diplomatic passports and service passports only. There is no contradiction in this issue. Mdame Dlamini Zuma has confirmed the desire to remove and working in this direction. And the negotiations on these agreements are in the practical phase. Approximately the same situation quite in advanced stage on the mutual recognition of qualification and also I don’t see any contradiction and we have full support of the South Africa side on it.
As for De Beers, this company has been working in Russia for a long time. It is not something new for our country. At the same time there are changed in the business policy. Now there are switching from the buying of diamonds for beneficiation of diamonds to the extraction of diamond. Such policy has already been implemented in practice. In general the government of Russia Federation endorses such practice. We proceed from the assumption that it will be between for all if all stages, from extraction to beneficiation, in minerals takes place in the territory of the same country. This creates new jobs in the country, more taxes go to the country coffers and I know South African share this approach.
Question: What kind of partnership are we exploring with the Russians in the areas of water and forestry and also I would like to know whether there have been any time frames set with regard to the launch of the satellite; and do we know when are we hoping to launch it?
Answer: [Minister Dlamini Zuma] In terms of the water and forestry we are looking at a variety of things. We are looking at water management; water monitoring – monitoring the water basin and also we are looking and fighting of fires. As you know there are lots of fires that we experience. We will also be looking at issues around timber processing and so on. Those are some of the areas that we are looking at.
Regarding the launch of the satellite Sputnik, depending on the weather conditions and other conditions. We are looking at launching it around the 25th of March next year.
Question: What form of benefit do we think we will accrue for both countries from the launch of the satellite and what kind of a satellite is it?
Answer: [Minister Dlamini Zuma] Well there are lots of benefits from satellites. As you know there are communication benefits and monitoring of the earth – we can look at the earth in terms of development and so on. There are lots of benefits that we will accrue from having that kind of a satellite. For the technical description of the satellite our Science and Technology people can explain the technical side of it.
[Minister Trutnev] I would like to say that satellites give a lot of advantages. Russia is currently developing its own system of global positioning. In this regard we are planning to significantly increase the orbital group of satellites of Russia. So for us this work that we are doing of preparations for the South African satellite is just one example as part of a general system of increasing the work in the space sector. I would like to say many types of work that we are doing now on the ground; on earth are much more expensive than completing that work from space, starting from the identification of exact borders to the search for mineral resources.
Question: Minister Trutnev you mentioned something about a manganese project but did not say what it is about. I would like to know more about it. I would also like to know exactly what the volume of trade between the two countries is.
Answer: I am talking about the United Manganese of Kalahari project. This is a project we discussed that concerns a joint venture to extract and process Manganese from the basin of the Kalahari Desert. Today within the framework of this project we have completed a geological survey and implemented a number of social projects like a school that has been built in the Northern Cape.
The design stage has also been completed and the work in progress now is the finalisation of the financing scheme for the mine.
Regarding bilateral trade, last year it totaled US$270 million and for the first six months of this year it totaled US$246 million. According to more optimistic indices our bilateral trade now exceeds US$ 600 million.
About the launch of the satellite. The situation is that the South African satellite will be launched by a Russian rocket and I believe that the essence of international cooperation is in joining efforts in making some concrete projects succeed.
South Africa has certain goals that can easily be reached from space. As I said earlier it is a very efficient way of reaching some of the goals. As for our capabilities in terms of launching satellites into orbit, I would like to say Russia is now a leading country in the world in this area. This is a leading country in the world in terms of technical barometers and the coasts; we are the leaders in the world now.
Question: Will we be launching our own satellites in the near future or is it still going to be through the Russian system?
[Minister Dlamini Zuma] And just to add on that; what South Africa will be establishing next year is our own space agency that will then develop South African policy. As I mentioned, we are cooperating with the Russians even in that and in training of people who will be working and implementing policy. Only then when policy is developed we can then look further at whether we want to launch more satellites and what types of satellites we want to launch; and whether some of those satellites could be launched from here or not. But it is something that will arise from that policy. In doing all that we will continue to cooperate with our Russian colleagues.
Question: What kind of cost are we looking at in this joint satellite launch? Do we have an idea how much we want to spend on it?
Answer: I do not know the figures, but all I know is that it will be cost effective
Question: Minister Dlamini Zuma you have mentioned transport links. I am not aware of any direct flights between OR Tambo International Airport and Moscow. So what are plans to improve transport links and could we possibly see the national flag carrier flying with Russian made planes instead of Boeings and Airbus?
Answer: As I said there is work going on in terms of discussions by both transport departments, but the first agreement we were working on in this area is the airworthiness agreement, which is almost finalised. It will probably be signed either in the next ITEC or in between. As you know we do not have direct passenger flights but we do see a lot of Russian-made cargo planes in our airports, so this will probably be the first area of cooperation. But of course as we discuss further anything is possible but for now we were looking at that.
But another area which is related but not the same is the area of tourism. We are going to cooperate in the are of tourism because it is one of the important sectors in economic development. But it is also an area that encourages civil society from both countries to visit the country. The more we know about each other’s countries the better cooperation there will be. We will have to discuss how the tourists come here as well.
And as ITEC we have began to also meet in different parts of our countries and not only in our capitals so that we, as the leadership of this process, also begin to know each other’s countries.
The last time the intersessional meeting in Russia was held in a beautiful city in the South around the Black Sea. We are meeting here in KwaZulu-Natal.
The last meeting, which was not an ITEC, when the then President of the Russian Federation visited he was in Cape Town. So we are doing that ourselves because it is an important part of it. We hope that the media on both sides will also help to inform our people about our countries and the potential for tourism to both countries.
And also relating to that we have been having quiet good cultural exchanges – Russian ballets coming here and we hope they will continue to come in the future. And I think as we speak there is a Russian choir in Gauteng. Hopefully if I have time I will go and listen to it.
We have been sending our cultural groups there – films and so on. So there is a lot going on which will indeed eventually justify us having proper transport between our two countries.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
25 November 2008