World Economy

EU Aims to ‘Consolidate’ Relations With S. Africa

EU Aims to ‘Consolidate’ Relations With S. AfricaEU Aims to ‘Consolidate’ Relations With S. Africa

The head of the European Union (EU) delegation to South Africa, Ambassador Roeland van de Geer, expects a quieter year in relations between the 28-member-country bloc and South Africa, following an action-packed and, at times, tempestuous 2014.

Besides a high-profile spat over citrus black spot (CBS), the EU and South Africa also bumped heads over South Africa’s unilateral cancellation of bilateral investment treaties with a number of European countries; all this amid tense final negotiations on the much-delayed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Southern African Customs Union members, as well as Mozambique, NewsNow reported.

But Van de Geer insists that, while relations may have appeared tense in the public arena, communication channels remained open throughout, laying the basis for continued progress on trade, investment and development cooperation.

In the area of trade, South African exports to the EU in 2014 came in at R193-billion ($15.87 billion), representing 23.15% of all exports from Africa’s most diversified economy. While the figure represents a decline in the bloc’s previous share of South African overall exports, it still makes the EU a larger importer of South African products than the US and the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

  Mutual Trade

In addition, Van de Geer stresses that the majority of trade is with South Africa’s non-minerals sectors, while the country’s trade deficit with the EU has also narrowed. EU exports to South Africa rose strongly in 2014 to R301-billion, from R284-billion. Even citrus exports held up, despite the CBS dispute, with the 645,000 tons exported to the EU in 2014 representing only a marginal decline in volumes. In value terms, however, citrus exports rose by 9% to R4-billion.

Van de Geer also emphasizes that no ban has ever been placed on South Africa oranges and insists that all interceptions have been pursued for phyto-sanitary rather than protectionist reasons. He expects the situation to improve in 2015, despite the fact that South Africa and the EU remain at odds over the science regarding fruit-to-plant CBS contamination.