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Economic Committee Between Switzerland And South Africa Launched

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

13 May 2008

Doris Leuthard, Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA), announced on Tuesday that she will receive South African Trade and Industry Minister, Mandisi Mpahlwa, in Bern on Thursday.

Together, the two ministers will officially launch the Swiss-South African Joint Economic Committee.

The South African Trade and Industry Minister will pay an official visit to Switzerland spanning the 14th and 15th May.

The Committee was proposed during Leuthard's trip to South Africa, and was expressly mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Mutual Cooperation between the Government of the Swiss Confederation and the Government of the Republic of South Africa, signed by Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey and South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on 8th March 2008.

The talks during committee sessions should permit a detailed analysis of the difficulties in the bilateral economic relations between South Africa and Switzerland, and allow for discussion of joint approaches to solving these problems.

The delegations will include representatives from both the administration and the private sector.

In addition to this first session of the Joint Economic Committee, the two ministers are scheduled to hold a working meeting.

The agenda for this meeting will include the continuation of the positive dialogue initiated at the South African Mission, and a further examination of important economic dossiers.

Issues relating to the WTO Doha Round, to the EFTA -SACU free trade agreement, and to intellectual property rights will also be discussed.

South Africa is by far the largest export market on the African continent for Switzerland.

With a bilateral trade volume of around CHF1.85bn (2007), South Africa holds a mid-table position among its trade partners.

In 2007, South African exports amounted to CHF1bn, while Swiss exports amounted to CHF805bn.

With the EFTA -SACU free trade agreement coming into effect on 1st May 2008, further positive impulses were generated.

As of the end of 2006, Swiss direct investment was valued at nearly CHF5bn.

According to statistics from the South African Reserve Bank, during this same time, Switzerland ranked fifth on the list of the most important foreign investors in South Africa.

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