It is important to increase and diversify South African exports to Vietnam in order to cover more value added items, says Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister Nomalungelo Gina.
The Deputy Minister was addressing a roundtable discussion on Vietnam-South Africa Economic Cooperation on the occasion of 30 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries in Pretoria on Thursday.
The roundtable interrogated economic areas of mutual interest for a shared future and was attended by Vietnamese officials and businesses in various fields such as energy, coal, pharmaceuticals, agriculture products, seafood and logistics, among others.
The session provided an opportunity for South African and Vietnamese business to match up investment and import-export opportunities.
Gina said trade between the two countries was slowly growing and mostly in favour of Vietnam.
Bilateral trade between South Africa and Vietnam was valued at R23.8 billion in 2022, up from R16 billion in 2018.
The trade balance amounted to R13.3 billion in favour of Vietnam.
Against this background, Gina said, it was important to increase and diversify exports to cover more value added items.
South Africa's major exports product include maize that accounted for 53% of total SA exports to Vietnam.
South Africa has identified products with export potential such as citrus, apples, steel and aluminium, leathers, polypropylene, meat products, among other products.
"South Africa's basket of imports from Vietnam is dominated by manufactured products such as telephone sets (36.6%), footwear (10.9%), printing machinery (3.9%), SA imports from Vietnam are a bit diversified as compared to SA exports to Vietnam," said the Deputy Minister.
South African exports to Vietnam are mostly primary products like oil and steel, aluminium, sea food, fresh fruits and nuts, in contrary, there is a scope for South Africa to increase exports of manufactured goods such as capital equipment, agro processing, automotive components.
"There is a need to diversify SA's export basket and shape the massive trade deficit. Both countries need to make concerted efforts to increase South Africa's value added products to Vietnam," said Gina.
The Deputy Minister encouraged Vietnamese business people to explore investment opportunities in South Africa.
"With regards to the investment and cooperation on electric vehicle and battery manufacturing, the levels of investment remain low but there is room for improvement. The development of our automotive industry, in particular electric vehicles and their associated components such as batteries is key to our economy," Gina said.
She mentioned furniture manufacturing as one area of interest and said South Africa would like to cooperate with Vietnam in this sector and receive investment.
She said there was so much that both countries can learn from each other.
Taking into account South Africa's abundant natural resources and Vietnam's position as the world's second-largest furniture exporter, Gina said there was a need to engage more and develop mutually beneficial areas of cooperation.
The roundtable was preceded by a bilateral meeting between Gina and her Vietnamese counterpart, Phan Thi Thang.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss bilateral trade and investment issues including a follow-up on the outcomes of the 5th SA-Vietnam Joint Trade Committee.
Some of the key issues the two discussed include increasing and diversification of exports to Vietnam, expansion of investment by Vietnamese companies in South Africa, cooperation on the Automotive sector (electric vehicles), cooperation on furniture manufacturing and market access for agricultural products.