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SA, Singapore eye free-trade agreement

Mail and Guardian, South Africa

SA, Singapore eye free-trade agreement

19 April 2007

SAPA, Pretoria, South Africa - Singaporean President Sellapan Ramanathan again pushed for a free-trade agreement between his country and South Africa during discussions with President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria on Thursday.

"As South Africa we indeed want this free-trade agreement," Mbeki answered, but said the issue was still being discussed in the Southern Africa Customs Union (Sacu), of which South Africa is a part.

He said the issue could only be taken further when Sacu has taken a decision on the matter.

"We had capacity constraints in spite of our desire. There have been a whole lot of negotiations going on," Mbeki said.

Trade was the major issue discussed between Mbeki and Ramanathan, with the Singaporean president saying that he saw South Africa as the hub for trade between Asia, Africa and South America.

Ramanathan said Singapore looked forward to expanding its trade relationship with South Africa. He also renewed offers of technical training for South Africans in Singapore.

Mbeki said the offer would be taken up and trainers would be sent to Singapore to receive training.

On Thursday evening Mbeki will host an official state banquet for Ramanathan.

One of the highlights of his visit is the launch of the R5,8-billion chlorine refinery and desalination plant at Coega.

Ramanathan is also expected to meet the Singaporean business community in South Africa and visit several historical sites.

After South Africa, he will visit Namibia and Botswana.