US business shows strong interest in SA

Trade and investment between South Africa and the United States (US) received a boost following a successful visit by South African Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin, to the world’s largest economy last week.

An upbeat minister briefed the media in Pretoria on Monday on the visit, saying there was “tremendous interest and change of attitude” shown towards South Africa by US businesses.

The meetings with US businesses during the visit were “extremely successful, focused and intense” said Erwin.

The Department of Trade And Industry (DTI) had worked with local subsidiaries to assist in setting up their US counterparts to ensure a wide reach of the business community during the visit. South Africa and the US have had a working partnership through the SA-US Bilateral Co-operation Forum since 1994.

The minister pointed out that the South Africa-US import/export picture was improving with a growth in US exports of 8,2%, from $2,5-billion in 1999 to $3,1-billion in 2000. At the same time, US imports from South Africa increased from $3,2-billion to $4,2-billion dollars in 2000.

The minister said numerous trade and economic deals were done between South African and US companies and some of the announcements would soon be made. The visit had focused on important areas like business processing, automotive and communicating with former US president Bill Clinton who promised to link up South African companies with US policy makers and potential investors.

“The message we got, especially from analysts, was that South Africa was an up-and-coming destination and offered excellent, value adding and sophisticated service in call centres, finance and project management,” said Erwin.

Currently 80 000 people are employed in the sector, and due to positive reception from the US investors in the area, many more jobs could be in the pipeline.

Language, good customer service and a timeline consistent with Europe’s are among South Africa’s advantages for business relations with the US. The minister also said South Africa had good discussions with the Americans on areas like supply of aerospace parts.

The minister and his delegation also held meetings with car manufacturing companies currently operating in South Africa. He said a US trade mission on small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) will visit South Africa in the near future to assess possible investment through partnerships with SMMEs in the country.

He concluded by observing that black economic empowerment was well understood in the US.

“In fact some of the US companies said black economic empowerment would assist to compliment their own strategies.” – I-Net Bridge

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