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Mbeki visits France to increase ties

14th November 2003


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President Thabo Mbeki and four Cabinet ministers will leave for France on Monday for a three-day state visit that will include discussions on further expanding economic ties with that country.

Briefing the media at Parliament yesterday, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad said talks between Mbeki and French President Jacques Chirac would focus on the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

The two leaders would examine progress made in setting up various AU organs, and also look at conflict resolution efforts on the continent.

Accompanying Mbeki will be Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Public Enterprises Minister Jeff Radebe, Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin and Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya.

Pahad said the visit was very important for South Africa.

"(The visit) could result in a increase in the quality of our lives. It will look at ways of further increasing investment into the rest of Africa. France does have special interests in Africa".

Pahad said France would ratify the South Africa-European Union Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement, approved by the French Senate in June.

The two leaders would also discuss the outcome of the World Trade Organisation meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

"We need to discuss how to deal with concerns about agricultural subsidies and dumping," he said.

Pahad said Chirac's vocal support for Morocco to win the bid to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup was bound to come up.

"I'm not sure if President Mbeki will discuss this issue. It is usually the sports administrations that decide these matters, but political influence is increasingly important," he said.

South Africa, along with Egypt, Nigeria and Morocco, are bidding to host the 2010 Cup, which has been promised to an African country.

France was South Africa's ninth-largest export market in 2002, to the tune of R6,8-billion in goods and services. South Africa's imports from France in that year totalled R11.3-billion.

France was also the ninth-largest foreign direct investor in South Africa in 2002, investing more than R3-billion. – Sapa.


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