South Africaˇ¦s Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, has urged fellow BRICS countries to strengthen and deepen their relations in a time when the worldˇ¦s trading systems are in turbulence.

ˇ§It is no secret. We are living in a time of enormous turbulence and crisis for the global multilateral system. We need to strengthen and deepen our relations,ˇ¨ said Minister Davies on Wednesday, 25 July 2018.

Speaking at the BRICS ([Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Business Forum Opening Session at the Sandton Convention Centre, Minister Davies said the current environment posed an enormous challenge.

ˇ§What weˇ¦ve seen is a number of stronger economies, particularly one, showing great scepticism to the multilateral trading system, which is not good for any of us. We are in the midst of trade wars ˇV South Africa is not a major protagonist [but is hit by] collateral damage,ˇ¨ said Minister Davies.

The Minister was referring to the United States (US) decision to impose Section 232 steel and aluminium tariff duties. US President Donald Trump signed proclamations granting permanent country exemptions to a select number of countries and extended by one month the Section 232 steel and aluminium tariff duty exemptions for some.

The proclamation followed the 8 March proclamation signed by President Trump to impose a 10% ad valorem tariff on imports of aluminium articles and a 25% ad valorem tariff on imports of steel articles. This excluded select countries, namely: Canada, Mexico, the European Union, South Korea, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

At Wednesdayˇ¦s session that brought together captains of industry and government officials, among others, Minister Davies said South Africa was not given exemption from the tariffs, adding that the US decision was affecting the country.

ˇ§Institutions like BRICS become very important to promote investment-led trade,ˇ¨ he said, adding that the bloc should work on identifying complementarities with one another.

He said that last monthˇ¦s trade ministers meeting identified complementary trade as a future mechanism among the BRICS countries.

Minister Davies said it was important for South Africa to move from exporting primary products as the technology revolution unfolded.

He said BRICS countries, which accounted for more than a third of the worldˇ¦s population, should invest more in each other.

ˇ§In the recent past, BRICS countries have been a disproportional source of global economic growth,ˇ¨ he said.

South Africa as the only African member of the bloc is also keen on helping to bring about development on the continent.

Integrating the African continent

ˇ§As South Africa, we have taken important steps forward to promote integration, beyond regional economies and move towards integrating the continent as a whole,ˇ¨ he told those gathered at the session.

Minister Davies said South Africa, as like other countries, was in the process of preparing to ratify the recently signed African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.

South Africa, he said, was not only seeking to increase trade with the continent, which was paltry, but that it wanted regional value chains to industrialise the continent.

Trade facilitation

ˇ§We need to support investment in other countries,ˇ¨ he said, adding that South Arica believes in the path of investment and trade.

As a form of facilitating investment, South Africa has set up Invest SA One Stop Shops to assist investors.

ˇ§Our approach has been that we will offer investment basic guarantees through the One Stop Shop,ˇ¨ he said.

Progress made by Business Council

Meanwhile, South Africa is pleased with progress made by the BRICS Business Council, which will present its annual report to Heads of State on Thursday, 26 July 2018.

Chair of the Business Council, Dr Iqbal Survé, said the trade barriers had led to much anxiety but that since the inception in 2013, the council had made several achievements. These include the Memorandum of Understanding with the Development Bank on closer cooperation that was signed in 2017 as well as the e-commerce platform to service BRICS countries.

The recent sixth meeting, which was held in Durban, was attended by over 400 delegates from all BRICS countries.

This, said Dr Survé, was the largest gathering in the history of the bloc, adding that trade barriers not only killed business but were harmful to people.

The long-term key recommendations made by the council include making provisions for long term visas and harmonising the recognition of qualification among BRICS countries.

He urged BRICS countries to roll back red tape and roll out the red carpet for business.

ˇV Source: SAnews.gov.za