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S Africa Delegation Visits Tehran in Search of Renewed Ties
Domestic Economy

S Africa Delegation Visits Tehran in Search of Renewed Ties

A 60-member South African business delegation, headed by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Emily Nkoana-Mashabane met with members of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) on Sunday, in a bid to enhance economic cooperation.
In Iran to attend the 12th meeting of Iran-South Africa Joint Commission, Mashabane is also accompanied by deputy trade and industry minister, Mzwandile Masina and a large contingent of senior officials from the departments of trade and industry, energy, treasury, water, science and technology, IRNA reported.
“While Iran and South Africa share strong diplomatic ties, having signed numerous collaboration agreements and held 12 joint commissions so far, economic and trade relations remain unimpressive,” said ICCIMA chairman Gholam-Hossein Shafei.
Shafei called on the business and capital-owners in both countries to expand economic cooperation in areas including mines and mining industries, construction, petrochemicals, pharmaceutical, steel, shipping and transportation.
He referred to the collaboration between Iranian and South African companies in the area of telecommunications, suggesting that South African companies consider production of paper from sugarcane waste in Iran’s Khuzestan Province. The practice of producing paper from sugarcane waste is common in several African countries in a move to reduce illegal logging, reverse deforestation and help slow the effects of climate change.
Highlighting the Iranian government’s plans for development of rail transport and engineering services, he suggested increasing shipping activities between the Iranian and South African ports to boost trade of various goods including agricultural products.
Shafei further noted that the two countries’ geographical positions present suitable opportunities for multilateral trade cooperation with countries and regions in the Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus via Iran, while South Africa provides a gateway to the central and southern African countries.

  Not Deterred by Sanctions
Mashabane, for her part, hailed Iran as a friend of South Africa, describing the western sanctions against Iran – imposed over its nuclear energy program – as “irrational and illegal.”
“The western sanctions cannot prevent us from expanding bilateral trade relations, as Iran stood by us during the fight against apartheid,” Mashabane said at the meeting.
She called on both sides to utilize the existing potential for boosting bilateral trade, noting that trade between the two countries grew by 50% over the past one year.  
Iran was once the biggest supplier of crude oil to South Africa, but the country was obliged to halt its imports of Iranian oil as of June 2012, because of sanctions.
Sanctions have also resulted in a big drop in South Africa’s exports to Iran from 1.5 billion Rand ($125.7 million) in 2007 to 250.1 million Rand ($21.03 million) last year, according to pressreader.com.

  Largest South African Delegation
Noting that the visiting South African delegation is the largest group of business and industrial representatives to have ever visited Iran, Mashabane said it comprises of 45 high-ranking government officials, 60 business representatives and parliament members from different political parties.
According to Mashabane, South Africa’s joint commission with Iran is the country’s biggest such commission in the Middle East region.
South Africa’s deputy trade and industry minister, Mzwandile Masina also emphasized the need for closer cooperation between the two countries’ business communities for exchange of trade delegation, adding that tax rebates and other incentives offered by the South African government to support foreign investment helps pave the way for stronger presence of Iranian businessmen in South Africa.
The delegates also met with President Hassan Rouhani on Monday at which Mashabane emphasized South Africa’s desire to revive and strengthen economic relations with Iran.

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