Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the Joint Press Conference with His Excellency Mr Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Pretoria, 12 September 2014

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media.

It is my great pleasure to once again welcome the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, His Excellency Vladimir Makei, and his delegation to South Africa. This is Minister Makei's first Official Visit to our country.

The meeting today provided us with an opportunity to once again appraise our bilateral relations which are 21 years old this year, and to further solidify our work in deepening our political and economic relations. 

We exchanged briefs on our national development priorities and emphasised the importance of building a mutually beneficial partnership that contributes to the advancement of our national and regional development priorities.

We also reviewed progress in our trade and economic relations, as well as cooperation in education, agriculture and rural development. In this regard, we renewed our continued support for the strengthening of economic and commercial relations and technical cooperation, especially in the automotive, capital equipment, agriculture and agro-processing sectors under the umbrella of the South Africa-Belarus Intergovernmental Committee of Trade and Economic Cooperation that is led by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

We further agreed that South Africa and Belarus have not yet maximised their bilateral trade and economic cooperation opportunities. In this regard, we acknowledged that there is a big room to grow the volume of our two-way trade, and create a more diversified and higher value-added trade portfolio. Furthermore, we agreed that closer cooperation and exchanges of information on policy and regulatory issues, trade and investment opportunities, as well as exchanges of business delegations and business chambers will facilitate an improvement in our economic and commercial relations.

Total trade between South Africa and Belarus has recorded an increase between 2009 and 2013 from R42 million to R253 million.

With regard to cooperation in agriculture, Minister Makei and I discussed the importance of expediting the finalisation of the agriculture cooperation agreement that is currently under consideration by our two countries.  We agree that this is key in establishing a solid foundation for focused and programmatic cooperation in this sector.

Our two countries will also continue to strengthen cooperation in education and skills development, including facilitating strong institutional partnerships, academic exchanges, scholarships and apprenticeships in key priority areas of agricultural sciences and research, engineering, forestry, and vocational and technical training.

We were also exchanging views on major political and economic developments in Africa and Europe and reflected on global governance issues of common interest such as UN reform and the post-2015 Development Agenda.

We believe that our mutually beneficial partnership will continue to thrive.

I would now like to take this opportunity to invite Minister Makei to address the media.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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