8 May 2012

South Africa: Govt, Germany Commit to Strengthen Partnership

Pretoria — Acknowledging the solid relationship between them, South Africa and Germany on Tuesday committed to further intensify their partnership in strategic areas.

"Both sides agreed that the intensification of co-operation between the countries in the context of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) can be fostered even further, and that full use must be made of all possibilities to increase investment in the respective countries," the countries said in a communiqu, issued after the 7th BNC meeting in Berlin.

The BNC was aimed at reviewing and mapping a way forward for their future relations.

Among the areas that received attention during the meeting were peace and security, development cooperation, the economy, the work of the UN and the post-conflict reconstruction and development of the African continent with a particular focus on infrastructure development.

Regarding the economy, both acknowledged that there existed signs of economic recovery in their respective countries following the deterioration in the global economic situation during 2009. However, they stressed the need to increase efforts towards further sustainable growth.

With a volume of trade of R14.8 billion in 2011, South Africa remains Germany's most important economic partner on the African continent.

According to the communique, South Africa was encouraged by the relatively significant share of value added items in its exports to Germany and noted that it needs to be further strengthened in the interest of both countries.

Germany welcomed the report on South Africa's infrastructure development programme and acknowledged the potential commercial opportunities this entailed.

"To this end, the sides undertook to work together in encouraging joint commercial activities in the area of infrastructure development both in South Africa and on the African continent," reads the communique.

Germany also welcomed the on-going developments in the Automotive Production Development Programme (APDP) and expressed the hope that the manufacturers of components for medium and heavy duty vehicles would be included in the programme.

Furthermore, the countries agreed to enhance entrepreneurial initiatives that are targeted at increasing export opportunities for South African SMEs.

Moving on to developmental cooperation, the BNC said it would continue to implement its development cooperation which is fully aligned with both countries' policies and priorities.

While on skills development, both sides confirmed the joint decisions taken in 2008 and 2010 to focus efforts in this field on the specific area of "green skills/jobs" within the focal areas of "Energy and Climate".

Both sides also agreed to continue the programme on trilateral cooperation.

In the area of human capital development, both countries took note of the on-going German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and National Research Foundation (NRF) scholarship program aimed at educational cooperation in areas such as staff development, higher education, institution building and promotion of university cooperation that seeks to develop the skills base of researchers and students.

"Both sides are pleased with the strong relations under this collaboration and committed to further advance the science, technology and innovation cooperation between the two countries," reads the communique.

In the area of defence, the BNC noted the successful training exchanges benefiting their landward, air, naval and medical services.

On global peace and foreign policy, the two countries exchanged views on peace and security issues on the African continent relating to Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, the Middle East, Iran as well as cooperation within the UN Security Council.

With regard to Sudan and South Sudan in particular, the BNC expressed its concern at the recent developments and stated its full support for the African Union/United Nations initiatives, including the role of the AU High Level Panel in resolving their differences.

On Syria, they expressed concern at the continued loss of life and supported a negotiated political solution based on the Kofi Annan Six Point Plan.

With reference to Iran, the BNC took note of the constructive engagement between the E3 +3 and the Iranian government in Istanbul and expressed its hope that the forthcoming meeting in Baghdad would take the negotiation process forward.

Regarding the reform of the UN Security Council the commission reaffirmed the need for comprehensive reform and discussed options for bringing added impetus to the process.

The BNC was established in 1996 to coordinate bilateral relations between the two countries in various areas.

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