Remarks by President Jacob Zuma to the South Africa-France Business Forum on the occasion of the State Visit to France, Paris
The President of MEDEF,
Leadership of Business Unity South Africa and the Black Business Council,
Captains of Industry from South Africa and France,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to President Hollande for the outstanding hospitality since our arrival on the occasion of my second State Visit to The French Republic.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the French Republic for successfully organising a good UEFA soccer tournament.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The visit builds on the successful State Visit by President Hollande to South Africa in 2013. We are today building on the foundation laid at that visit.
The State Visit takes place under the theme "Working together as equal partners to explore opportunities and address the challenges of the 21st Century”.
The theme is appropriate given that the visit takes place soon after the referendum in the United Kingdom which resolved that the UK should leave the European Union. The so-called Brexit holds implications way beyond the borders of the UK and the member states of the EU.
The withdrawal outcome has impacted seriously on world economies and markets, and both our countries have been affected. We will impress upon France to play a role during this period of finding solutions that will not cause further difficulties on the global economy.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is an important visit through which we want to further expand relations between our two countries.
We want to expand cooperation in line with government priorities of both countries, including in the areas of energy, maritime, agriculture, science and technology, education, arts and culture, defence and development cooperation.
We are meeting with business during this visit because it is our intention to see an expansion of trade relations with France, and especially to increase our exports to France.
I am confident that this Business Forum will further advance investment and trade levels in support of the national priorities of our two countries.
France is an important trade, investment and tourism partner for South Africa. France is one of the biggest sources of inward tourism to South Africa. We also value the investments from France which amounted to over R24 billion last year, creating more than 4000 jobs. In 2015, the overall volume of trade totalled R33 billion.
French companies have acquired lucrative contracts in South Africa, in the infrastructure and energy programmes, amounting to billions of Rand.
We are keen to see increased industrialisation, localisation, job creation and skills development linked to the large infrastructure and energy contracts acquired by French companies. We believe that there is further room to increase bilateral trade and investment.
We want France to partner as we take further the transformation of our economy, to ensure inclusivity and sustainability. One of the key programmes in this regard is the Black Industrialist programme which seeks to promote the participation of black entrepreneurs in manufacturing.
We are confident that partnership with beneficiaries of the Black Industrialists programme will contribute meaningfully in any joint venture that will be undertaken with French business.
We welcome the recent signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and six countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including South Africa.
This development-oriented agreement is the first of its kind with an African region pursuing regional economic integration.
In pragmatic terms, this means that South Africa has achieved improved market access for 32 agricultural products, with a significant improvement in our access to the EU market for wine, sugar and ethanol within the agreed upon duty free ranges.
Yes, South African wine is the best! If you have not tasted it yet, do not be left behind. Do so without delay. You will not be disappointed. There is also improved access for our exports of flowers, some dairy, fruit and fruit products.
Furthermore, intra-regional trade and industrialisation across southern and Eastern Africa will be facilitated as a result of the improvement of the EPA rules of origin.
We welcome the agreement that the EU will eliminate export subsidies on agricultural goods destined to the Southern African Customs Union as this will go a long way in addressing the trade imbalance to the two regions.
As signatories to the Economic Partnership Agreement, France and South Africa must take advantage of the vast opportunities that exist within bilateral trade and investment landscape.
This year will also see the implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area which is an agreement between the Heads of State of 26 African countries to establish a free trade area.
It combines the Southern Africa Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community.
This economic integration will create a common market which will comprise of 600 million consumers, a combined GDP of one trillion dollars and offer enormous opportunities for business.
Infrastructure development will be a major driving force in unlocking this growth potential.
Inadequate infrastructure is one of the main factors inhibiting trade, integration and economic development. It has been calculated that if the continent continues to narrow its infrastructure gap, economic growth will receive a further large boost - perhaps by as much as 2 percentage points a year.
Within this context, I am championing the Presidential Infrastructure Committee Initiative and herein lie opportunities for France to partner with us in specific aspects of the North-South corridor.
This tripartite partnership would also ensure continuity of the commitment made by myself and President Hollande during the last State Visit to South Africa in October 2013. At the Business Forum of 2013 we spoke at length to the theme "South Africa and France working together for Africa's Industrialisation".
Business is a key player towards the achievement of those goals. We are pleased to meet with you as business today, and we wish to remind you that South Africa remains open for business and meaningful economic partnerships.
Let me wish you every success in your business interaction.
I thank you.