Ramaphosa leads Per­sian car­pet ride to Iran

CityPress - - Business - XOLANI MBANJWA xolani.mbanjwa@city­press.co.za

Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa is ex­pected to visit Iran to re-es­tab­lish trade ties and for­mally au­tho­rise the for­ma­tion of the Iran and South Africa Joint Busi­ness Coun­cil.

Ramaphosa’s trip to Iran will fol­low a “suc­cess­ful” visit to Iran this week by a busi­ness del­e­ga­tion led by Sello Rasethaba, co-chair­per­son of the newly formed bi­lat­eral coun­cil, which in­cludes mem­bers of the Black Busi­ness Coun­cil.

While Ramaphosa’s spokesper­son, Ron­nie Mamoepa, would not con­firm when Ramaphosa would be trav­el­ling to Iran, be­cause “a date has not been con­firmed yet”, City Press un­der­stands that Ramaphosa’s visit would be another huge step to­wards strength­en­ing trade ties be­tween the two coun­tries af­ter the lift­ing of in­ter­na­tional trade sanc­tions last month.

Mah­moud Soroush, sec­ond coun­sel­lor to the Ira­nian em­bassy in Pre­to­ria, said his coun­try hoped that the trade value be­tween the two coun­tries would re­turn to the trade lev­els last seen three years ago – Ira­nian oil ex­ports to South Africa stood at $3.5 bil­lion in 2012, be­fore the sanc­tions were im­posed.

In 2007, South African ex­ports to Iran stood at R1.5 bil­lion, but by 2014 that fig­ure had dropped to R250 mil­lion, when South African im­ports of oil from Iran had fallen to $100 mil­lion.

Soroush said the latest oil-im­port fig­ures of $100 mil­lion last year showed how the in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions had af­fected trade re­la­tions.

“South African com­pa­nies in the sec­tors of agri­cul­ture, ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­dus­trial co­op­er­a­tion in the var­i­ous sec­tors can also get in­volved. Bank­ing re­la­tions and set­ting up ship­ping lines and air routes will also help in­crease re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries,” said Soroush.

Rasethaba said the Iran and South Africa Joint Busi­ness Coun­cil would be used as a plat­form to strengthen eco­nomic ties be­tween the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties in the two coun­tries, and fa­cil­i­tate reg­u­lar in­ter­ac­tions be­tween mem­bers of the coun­cil and the two gov­ern­ments.

“We need to work hard not to get back to those trade lev­els be­fore the sanc­tions. But un­like other coun­tries, the South African gov­ern­ment has con­sis­tently sup­ported the gov­ern­ment of Iran through­out the sanc­tions pe­riod,” said Rasethaba.

The fo­cus ar­eas for the coun­cil would be to pro­mote re­cip­ro­cal busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties be­tween the two coun­tries, pro­vide con­sis­tent trade fig­ures to iden­tify new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, pro­mote tech­nol­ogy ex­change and re­search, de­velop ed­u­ca­tion and skills trans­fer and train­ing to help pro­duc­tiv­ity, and par­tic­u­larly fo­cus on how South African and Ira­nian busi­nesses can sup­port this aim, said Rasethaba.

“The terms of ref­er­ence for the coun­cil will be signed when lead­ers of the two gov­ern­ments meet, whether in Iran or in Pre­to­ria,” added Rasethaba.

OUR MAN IN IRAN

Cyril Rama­posa

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