Trade between South Africa and Saudi Arabia nearly trebled from R29.7-billion in 2009 to R80.1-billion in 2013, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said at the 5th session of the South Africa-Saudi Arabia Joint Economic Commission in Pretoria on Thursday.
At the same, South Africa was keen to achieve more balanced trade between the two countries, Davies said, noting that SA’s trade deficit with Saudi Arabia had grown from R62.2-billion in 2012 to R74.8-billion in 2013.
In January this year, Saudi Arabia overtook Germany to become South Africa’s second-biggest source of imports, with China being the largest.
“There is no doubt that the level of our bilateral trade, especially South Africa’s value-added exports to Saudi Arabia, is far below potential and is also concentrated in a few sectors like oil and gas, raw materials, fruits and vegetables,” Davies said in a statement issued after the meeting.
“This points to a need to diversify our basket of goods traded. More value-added and diversified trade will benefit both our countries as it will lead to job creation, which is one of our biggest challenges at present.”
Davies and his Saudi counterpart, Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, co-chaired the Joint Economic Commission meeting, which agreed to harness all means to promote further growth between the two regional powerhouses.
“We have expressed our desire to collaborate with the Saudi side in the promotion of investments between the two countries,” Davies said. “This can be done through the exchange of company visits. To this end, the South African side will make available its top 10 investment projects to its Saudi counterparts.”
He added that the two countries had agreed to promote cooperation in the fields of oil, gas and minerals by setting up meetings between oil and mining companies in both countries, as well as bilateral meetings to discuss joint investment opportunities and possible areas of cooperation.
The commission had also agreed to increase cooperation in the field of mineral resources and mineral beneficiation by setting up exchange programmes for professionals working in the field.
The meeting of the commission was preceded by a South Africa-Saudi Arabia Business Forum attended by business people from both countries. The forum mandated the South Africa–Saudi Arabia Business Council to identify complementary projects that businesses could collaborate on.