Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Photo: Nicholas Rama/African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA - Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has arrived in Saudi Arabia to co-chair the 8th session of the South Africa – Saudi Arabia joint economic commission (JEC), the trade and industry department (dti) said on Sunday.

Davies was accompanied by a delegation of senior government and state-owned enterprises (SoE) officials, as well as a business delegation, the dti said in a statement.

"The purpose of the visit is threefold. In addition to co-chairing the JEC, minister Davies is leading a business delegation of South Africa companies from the financial services, agro-processing, and pharmaceutical sectors. The visit is also a follow up on President [Cyril] Ramaphosa’s state visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2018 where Saudi Arabia pledged to invest US10 billion in South Africa’s energy, defence, and agricultural sectors," the department said.

The 8th session of the JEC would assess the progress made and implementation of the commitments of the previous session and seek ways to further deepen trade, economic, and social co-operation. Davies would address a business forum hosted by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce for business persons of both countries. A number of bilateral meetings with relevant Saudi ministries and investors had also been convened. These meetings would discuss implementation of the institutions with a view to the US10 billion investment pledge.

South Africa and Saudi Arabia maintained good political and economic relations and co-operated in a number of fields. Saudi Arabia continued to be South Africa’s strategic partner in the Middle East region and was South Africa’s 2nd largest trading partner and largest source of imports from the Middle East region.

Globally, Saudi Arabia was among South Africa’s top five import partners, largely due to the amount of the oil imported from the kingdom. SA exports were led by mineral products, automotives, base metals, machinery, and mechanical appliances.

In terms of bilateral trade, total trade between South Africa and Saudi Arabia amounted to R55.4 billion in 2017, with a trade surplus in favour of Saudi Arabia due to oil imports. The total trade had shown a consistent increase from R39.1 billion in 2013 to R55.4 billion in 2017, the dti said.

African News Agency (ANA)