South Africa and France have agreed to explore ways to increase future trade and investment. Despite long-standing relations between the two countries, the two-way trade stands at R33 billion in favour of France.
President Jacob Zuma and his French counterpart François Hollande held trade talks in Paris on Monday afternoon in a bid to boost investment. The two leaders have also witnessed the signing of four bilateral agreements.
Although South Africa and France are key players in their respective regions, President Zuma and his French counterpart are worried at the low levels of bilateral trade.
And more worrying for Pretoria is that while 350 French companies are doing business in the country, only 30 South African businesses are operating in France. Trade is also hugely skewed in France’s favour.
On Monday both presidents were locked in a meeting in a bid to level the playing field and increase trade. President Zuma says their economic activities should merge their cordial relations.
”We recognised that although trade figures have grown steadily over the past few years bilateral trade has not reach its full potential. We therefore explored avenues for increasing trade as well as looking at sectors for future investment. We further reinforced our commitment to strengthening cooperation on regional and international peace and security, ” says Zuma.
The two leaders also discussed Britain’s decision to cut ties with the European Union. President Zuma says they have agreed not to work together to cushion the impact of UK’s decision on their economies.
And speaking through an interpreter, his French counterpart François Hollande promised that economic relations between South Africa and his government will not be ruined by Brexit.
”Everybody knows that South Africa and the UK are closely tied through past history and there are economic ties as well. My position is clear I have said there will be no effect of the cause of Brexit on South Africa,” says Hollande.
The first day of President Zuma’s stay in Paris also included an address to the South African – French Business Forum where he told French companies that South Africa is open for business.
Day-two will see him travelling to Delville Wood over 200 kilometres outside Paris for the centenary commemoration of the death of thousands of South African soldiers during the 1st World War.