South Africa regards Poland as key to the country's bid to attract more foreign investment from Europe, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said after holding discussions with visiting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Pretoria on Thursday.
Poland is not only an important trading partner in Europe but a key market for South Africa's tourism industry, Motlanthe said, adding that his discussions with Tusk had covered a range of issues, including transport, agriculture, rural development, energy and telecommunications.
"What was most pleasing about the discussions is that we were able to share similarities between the two countries and discussed cooperation in our areas of strength," Motlanthe said.
"We've also looked into maritime, in terms of exchanging skills in ship building, and we agreed to cooperate in all of these areas."
Tusk said that South Africa remained a model of social transformation for the world, adding that Poland and South Africa were connected by history. "The large community of Poland in South Africa is proof of our historic similarities, common political interest and the ties we have always shared with this country," he said.
Trade between South Africa and Poland grew from R2.6-billion in 2006 to R6.3-billion in 2012, with imports from Poland increasing from R1.3-billion to R4.6-billion over the same period.
However, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies believes the numbers could be improved, considering Poland's solid economic position in Europe, and the trade imbalance favouring Poland rectified.
"There is still more we can do to promote trade," Davies told SAnews on Thursday. "From our point of view, our interest is promoting more South African exports to Poland.
"One of the issues and challenges that we face is establishing proper transport logistics and proper shipping line connections, because at the moment too many of our products are dependent on middlemen in other countries.
"We think that business-to-business contacts are also very important," Davies said. "So this agreement that we have sighed today gives us an institutional, structured way of enhancing our cooperation."
He was referring to the economic cooperation agreement he signed earlier with Polish Undersecretary of State Beata Stelmach, covering sectors including mining and mineral exploration, carbon enrichment, mining machinery, oil and gas, construction, transport and infrastructure.
Davies said the investment promotion and development finance institutions from both countries would also be signing agreements to build stronger trade and investment cooperation.
Tusk was due to pay a courtesy call to President Jacob Zuma later on Thursday afternoon before joining a Poland-South Africa Business forum in Midrand, north of Johannesburg.