South African parliamentary committee approves cooperation treaty with Southeast Asia
Parliament's Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on Thursday approved a cooperation treaty with Southeast Asia in a bid to expand South Africa's strategic economic ambit and find new markets.
The committee unanimously recommended that the National Assembly approve South Africa's accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Committee Chairperson Tandi Mahambehlala said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.
The treaty will contribute to the elimination of tariffs between member states, which will, in turn, lead to reduced prices and more investment opportunities.
"Politically speaking, we welcome the initiative to formalise relations with the ASEAN grouping," Mahambehlala said.
Four ASEAN members established diplomatic relations with Pretoria before South Africa became a democratic state in 1994, while six other nations established full diplomatic relations with South Africa after 1994, according to Mahambehlala.
She said the committee is of the view that by building diplomatic engagement with ASEAN, South Africa will enhance its ability to create strategic relations for social and economic benefit domestically, which can be transferred to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and Africa as a whole, as per the tenets of South Africa's foreign policy.
Given rising tensions in global trade, coupled with shrinking global markets, the committee resolved that accessing more economic partners and markets is in South Africa's national interest, Mahambehlala said.
She cautioned that the global economic landscape is shifting and South Africa needs to open up access to other market opportunities, not only in the West.
"We are mindful that relations with the U.S. and the European Union (EU) remain strong, but in my view, we need to open up different locomotives of our economy," the chairperson said.
She said the ASEAN countries may present important economic opportunities and development lessons.
"If South Africa has a commodity the ASEAN needs and if that offers us an opportunity to beneficiate through manufacturing the commodities needed, then, by all means, we must follow our national interest and promote trade relations and economic cooperation with the ASEAN," she said.