Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and his Iraqi counterpart, Khairullah Hasan Babakr, have signed an agreement aimed at exploring the trade potential that exists in various sectors between South Africa and Iraq.
The two signed the agreement on economic and technical cooperation in Cape Town on Thursday.
Davies said trade between South Africa and Iraq was valued at R197-million last year, and that in 2007, South Africa had imported goods from Iraq totalling R1.7 billion.
"Trading trends indicate that we are operating below potential, but they are improving," Davies said. "We have exported a significant amount of value-added goods ranging from vehicles, helicopters and machinery to electrical equipment. There is also a potential for trade in citrus products, nuts and melons."
Davies said that as a first step to implementing the agreement, the Department of Trade and Industry would send a government-business delegation on an International Trade Initiative to Iraq next year.
He said the department would further seek ways to help Iraqis with the challenge of obtaining South African visas, as there is no SA embassy in Iraq. Iraqi citizens currently have to get their visas in Jordan.
Babakr said trade relations between South Africa and Iraq have generally been conducted through intermediaries, and it was envisaged that, with the signed agreement, a guideline to trade directly would be formulated.
"Iraq is recovering from the devastation of war and has potential in various sectors, especially the infrastructure sector," Babakr said.
"We have moved from a controlled economy to a free market system and have also introduced new laws opening opportunities to foreign investors to invest in Iraq in different sectors, especially infrastructure."