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S.African trade trend is towards emerging markets: minister

South African exports to Europe and other developed countries remain below their 2008 peaks while trade with emerging economies has boomed, trade minister Rob Davies said Friday.

“Global economic power is shifting before our very eyes from the North and West to the South and East,” the minister told parliament.

Developed countries remained important markets to South Africa, but “our exports to these economies remain well below the peak achieved in 2008, just prior to the global economic crisis,” Davies said.

South Africa has seen continued and rapid growth in trade with emerging countries however, led by China and India, he said.

The European Union remains South Africa’s biggest trade partner, but troubles on the continent have left volumes depressed, he noted.

“Nowhere in Europe have we got back to where we were in 2008,” Davies said.

Exports to Germany last year stood at 120 billion rand ($14.4 billion), down from 128 billion rand in 2008, he told reporters after speaking to parliament.

In contrast, relatively modest trade with Brazil is growing, from 5.3 billion rand in 2008 to 5.9 billion rand last year, he added.

Davies said the government plans to target markets across Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, in addition to its partners in the BRICS bloc that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“Africa has emerged as South Africa’s most important market for our manufactured exports,” the minister said, although improved infrastructure on the continent was needed to boost trade.

Another challenge is to expand exports of value-added products to China rather than the unprocessed minerals that currently dominate South African shipments to the Asian giant.