French and South African companies have been encouraged to work together on the industrialisation of South Africa and the African continent.
Speaking at a business forum on the sidelines of the state visit by French President Francois Hollande on Monday, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said that although France was among the country's top five partners in the European Union (EU), a lot more still needed to be done.
"A lot of work needs to be done to recover the trade relations that the two countries shared before the global economic crisis," Davies said.
France is among South Africa's top 10 trading partners. The two countries have significant and sizeable trade and investment relations.
Davies said that what needed to be improved were partnerships between the two countries on industrialisation.
He said the African continent was recognised as one of the growing frontiers in the world and that the African region needed to integrate.
"One of the priorities should be regional integration, because as a continent we are divided into many smaller markets. It is important to generate a market for industrialisation to address the real economic issues that make it hard for industrialisation - one of which is infrastructure."
South Africa is engaged in a massive infrastructure programme, with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) having also set up infrastructure programmes, and these should form the basis for industrialisation, Davies said.
French Minister of Foreign Trade Nicole Bricq told the forum that French companies based in South Africa understood South Africa's commitment to redress the inequalities of the past and respected the country's regulations.
She said foreign trade could be enhanced by better knowledge of each other.
"Many South African companies export goods from France, which boosts exports for our country. South African companies should also be encouraged to invest in France in order to restore balance in trade with the EU. If South African companies come, this will reduce the deficit and increase employment - which is a common concern for both countries."
Davies and Bricq agreed on Monday to revive the Joint Economic Committee between South Africa and France. The committee was established in 1995 to promote and strengthen trade and industrial co-operation between the two countries.