BRICS Business Council to be set up during Durban summit

 The BRICS Summit in South Africa later this month will see the launch of the BRICS Business Council - a platform to strengthen ties among the business communities of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

"The BRICS Business Council will constitute a platform to strengthen economic ties between the business communities of the five BRICS countries and facilitate regular interactions between the members as well as with the five BRICS governments," South African Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Elizabeth Thabethe told IANS in an interview here.

The BRICS summit as well as the 4th BRICS Business Forum are slated to be held in Durban March 25-27.

Thabethe, who is leading a delegation of South African businesses to participate in the country's fourth Investment and Trade Initiative to India (March 4-8), said: "We look forward to engaging 100 Indian executives in areas of mutual interest and driving trade and investment."

Pointing out that India is a key partner with South Africa in many multilateral fora like IBSA, G-20 and the WTO, Thabethe said the two countries seek to advance South-South relations.

"The rationale for this is rooted in the enhancement of South-South economic integration and cooperation. The broadening of economic space through larger consumer markets gives developing countries such as South Africa and India the opportunity to develop economies of scale, increase their competitiveness and become global competitors."

Thabethe said as India's economy continues growing, so too will its requirements for Africa's resources, providing further impetus to the continent's growth.

In 2012, trade between India and South Africa was worth over $14 billion.

The composition of trade, however, shows that South Africa's exports to India mainly consist of raw materials and there is a need to promote the export of value-added products, Thabethe said.

"Indian businesses wishing to invest in South Africa need to be prepared to invest in value addition over time," she said.

In recent years, Indian business in sectors like mining and agriculture has started doing value-addition in South Africa to bring back valued-added or semi-finished products to India.

Total foreign direct investment from India to South Africa amounts to $3.8 billion till date.

Thabethe said the India-SACU Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) that would boost trade by reducing tariffs on several key products is expected to be finalised by this year-end.

Besides South Africa, the South African Customs Union (SACU) consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

On business collaborations, Thabethe said her visit to India last year had resulted in a number of MoUs.

Cesep, a South African pharmaceutical company,  has signed an MoU with the Alves Group to set up a medical facility in the underdeveloped mining areas of Mpumalanga in South Africa. The expected foreign direct investment is around $23 million.

Tubular Track from South Africa, which has a patented technology for laying rail tracks without ballast, is in a joint venture currently with Essar Ports that is working on a railroad project in Mozambique.

Thabethe said the  Joint Ministerial Commission that oversees bilateral economic relations is expected to convene this year in South Africa for its ninth session.

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