Pretoria — Progress has been made at the second meeting of the South Africa-Vietnam Partnership Forum, where the entire scope of bilateral relations between the two countries was reviewed and strengthened.
"I'm happy to say that a great deal of progress was made at the meeting and that the bilateral relationship between South Africa and Vietnam has been re-invigorated and further strengthened," said Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, who described Vietnam as an important partner for South Africa.
Briefing reporters on Friday following the meeting, Ebrahim said discussions between the two countries took place in the ambit of the bilateral agreement concerning the establishment of an Inter-Governmental Partnership Forum for Economic, Trade, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation, which was concluded between the two countries in 2004.
The meeting was co-chaired by Ebrahim and his Vietnamese counterpart Le Luong Minh.
On Thursday, senior officials met to discuss areas of mutual interest and to prepare action plans for future joint action. The officials thereafter reported back to the deputy ministers.
The meeting discussed cooperation in environmental affairs, including further discussions aimed at finalising negotiations on a draft Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of biodiversity conservation and protection.
The scope of the MoU covers on cooperation on biodiversity management, law enforcement and compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) and other relevant legislation.
The two countries expressed their shared concern on illegal trafficking, particularly around rhino horns, and agreed to work together to address the issue of protecting endangered species.
Ebrahim said a lot of time had lapsed since the last meeting. "There was a big gap and there were a number of agreements that were signed and I think that ... now we need to implement those agreements because there has been a lapse of time. That is why we say there should be more regular meetings."
The two nations also said they were looking at expanding bilateral trade.
Minh said the two nations had discussed issues of mutual concern, while also briefing each other on their respective regions as well as the potential for further development.
"I'd like to reaffirm what was said by the deputy minister... both sides discussed how to operationalise agreements that have not been implemented. We discussed the possibility of concluding new agreements to enhance cooperation such as agriculture, education and pharmaceuticals and promote trade between our two countries. We also discussed the possibility of concluding an agreement on avoiding double taxation," said Minh.
Other areas of cooperation would include water affairs and justice matters, specifically further negotiation with the aim of concluding an agreement on an extradition treaty.