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South Africa, PH eye free trade agreement

South Africa, PH eye free trade agreement

Sunstar | 18th March 2024

By Katlene O. Cacho-Laurejas

The South African and the Philippine governments are looking to enter into a free trade agreement (FTA) to boost both nation’s trade relations.

“We are sorting it out with the Philippines,” said Bartinah Ntombizodwa Radebe-Netshitenzhe, Ambassador of South Africa to the Philippines, in her visit to Cebu on Friday, March 15, 2024.

FTAs aim to reduce trade barriers, promote economic growth, create jobs, increase exports and lower prices for consumers.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual was quoted in a report as saying that “the agency will look to conduct a study to see if there is complementarity.” He said the Philippines is catching up with its Asean peers in growing the number of countries that have FTAs with.

In 2021, South Africa ranked 42 among 223 top trading partners and was the largest African trading partner of the Philippines, logging a total trade amount of US$125.1 million.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the Philippines’ $85.5 million worth of export products to South Africa include desiccated coconut, tobacco, coconut oil and its fraction, mucilage and thickeners, carrageenan, preparations suitable for infants and young children, tobacco that were not stemmed-flue-cured, sauces and preparations, coffee extracts, essences and concentrates and coconut concentrate.

On the other hand, the South African government mostly exported onion seeds, dog and cat food, fruit juice mixtures, undenatured ethyl alcohol, grape wine, peaches, mixture of juices, waters including mineral and aerated with added sugar, mandarins and apple juice amounting to $39.6 million.

While both countries are still studying the feasibility of an FTA, the South African envoy said the African nations are in the process of boosting intra-Africa trade in a bid to make Africa a global economic powerhouse.

Dubbed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), this agreement will unite 55 economies into a single, competitive mega market of 1.3 billion people that is worth US$3 trillion, making it one of the biggest free trade areas in the world.

Netshitenzhe said this development stands to benefit the Philippines being one of South Africa’s trading partners, giving more Philippine products wider market exposure and wider market access.

Meanwhile, during her working visit to Cebu City on March 14 and 15, the ambassador met with both the local government of Cebu and the business sector to promote economic interest in the agro-processing sector, manufacturing sector, tourism promotion, creative industry and maritime training cooperation as well as having a sister-city agreement with Durban City.

Netshitenzhe met with Cebu Vice Gov. Hilario Davide III and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama. They discussed ways to improve bilateral economic relations, tourism promotion and people-to-people contact.

She also engaged with the newly elected officials of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and discussed areas on how to increase import and export relations, tourism promotion initiatives, explore cooperation in the creative industry and investment opportunities as well as discussed the proposed memorandum of understanding with Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Specifically, Netshitenzhe said South Africa can help link Cebu with Durban Port to learn from each other’s best practices when it comes to port operations and management after learning that Cebu is expanding its international port.

“We have the best technology,” she said. Durban Port is the largest and busiest shipping terminal in Sub-Saharan Africa, handling some 15,000 containers a day.

The ambassador also highlighted untapped opportunities for growth in the tourism sector, given Africans’ affinity for tropical destinations like Cebu’s beaches.

“Everybody wants to go to the beach,” she said.

Last year, a total of 6,487 Filipinos visited South Africa while 4,525 South Africans were welcomed in the Philippines in the same year. In January 2024 alone, a total of 443 South Africans visited the Philippines.

In the area of trade, Netshitenzhe wants to see more mangoes being exported to South Africa, especially during the winter season. In return, she also wants to see an increased importation of citrus fruits and products from South Africa to the Philippines. (KOC)

 source: Sunstar