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Singapore, SA eye trade pact

Finance 24.Com, South Africa

Singapore, SA eye trade pact

22 April 2005

Singapore - Singapore and South Africa have agreed to begin free trade talks later this year, as the wealthy city-state seeks to expand its economic access to African states.

An agreement with Johannesburg would be Singapore’s first with an African nation.

"On bilateral relations, (South African) President Thabo Mbeki agreed to commence talks between the Southern African Customs Union and Singapore on a free trade agreement this year," Singapore’s Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said in a statement issued late on Thursday.

Mbeki met Singapore leaders on Thursday before heading for the Asia-Africa Summit in Indonesia.

The statement said the union, which comprises South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, "will discuss this proposal at their Council of Ministers’ Meeting next week."

It was not immediately clear if the potential deal with Mbeki’s government would extend to the other nations or if South Africa merely needs permission to further discussions.

Goh, who was prime minister until last year, made free trade agreements a cornerstone of his country’s economic policy, inking pacts with the United States, Australia and Japan among others.

More than a dozen others - including a slew with Middle East nations - are in the pipeline.

Singapore’s investments in South Africa amount to around S$200m, (R738m, US$121m) mostly in the logistics, light manufacturing and services sectors.

A third of Singapore’s trade with sub-Saharan Africa is with Johannesburg.