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Envoy plea for higher India-SA trade, investment

Our Bureau

CALCUTTA, May 29

THE High Commissioner of South Africa in India, Ms Maite Nkoana Mashabane, has outlined the scope for bilateral trade and investment. ``The real SA is six years old and we are still scratching the surface'', Ms. Mashabane said at a news conference here t oday.

SA was keen to offer its expertise in the areas of mining equipment and exploration, infrastructure development, power generation and distribution, food processing and tourism. India, on its part, could offer its skilled IT manpower and expertise in sett ing up small and medium enterprises in SA.

According to her, formalisation of the proposed double taxation avoidance treaty with India would facilitate increased bilateral trade and investment. Bilateral trade had gone up from US$ two million in 1993 to $ 2.3 billions at present. During the perio d, 18 trade-related deals had been signed. Seven more agreements were in the pipeline.

Several South African companies had set up operations here. De Beers had committed to invest $ 120 millions every year in diamond exploration in India. LTA, which has already opened an office in Calcutta, was negotiating with Coal India Ltd for setting u p coal beneficiation plants. South African Breweries had received the approval of Foreign Investment Promotion Board to set up a brewery in North India at an estimated investment of US$ 200 millions.

She observed that bilateral co-operation between SA and India was focussed on economic and defence co-operation.``We do not wish to re-invent the wheel. We shall offer each other our expertise in respective spheres. We, on our part, are quite bullish abo ut our participation in several core areas in India, including infrastructure development''.

She felt mining activity in India was not looking up on account of unviable technology that was in vogue. Mining technology developed in SA would ensure viable mining operations. In power generation and distribution, too, South African technology would h elp in reducing costs and transmission and distribution losses. For example, the cost per unit of power in SA was lower at Rs. 1.50 while losses on account of transmission and distribution was contained at three per cent, as against 22 per cent in India.

Ms. Mashabane urged Indian companies to invest in her country, especially in medium and small-scale units. Such companies could take advantage of the 14-nation free trade agreement signed under the aegis of South African Development Co-operation - of whi ch her country was a signatory. Indian units in SA could also benefit from trade agreements signed with European Union.

The High Commissioner met the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr. Jyoti Basu, and conveyed SA's interest in participating in agro-processing and infrastructure development projects.

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