The legal platform for the Russian-South African relations in trade and economy was launched in 1993 with the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation which reciprocally introduced almost favoured nation bilateral treatment in trade and investment protection, and provided for freedom of transit of goods through either party territory.
Other key documents are Agreement on Cooperation in Mining (1999), Agreement on Double Taxation Avoidance (2000) and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (2000). In 2002 South Africa recognized the market status of the Russian economy.
South Africa is a leading Russian foreign trade partner in Sub-Saharan Africa. Bilateral trade in January – November 2013 increased by 22,1% to USD 998,0 million (USD 817,0 million in January - November 2012). With Russia's exports increasing by 59,1% to USD 260,5 million (USD 163,7 million in January - November 2012), imports grew by 12,9% to USD 737,5 million (653,3 million in January - November 2012). The mutual investments are also massive: Russian investments in South Africa reached over one billion dollars (South African investments in Russia - over 75 million dollars).
The major Russian exports comprise chemical and agro-industrial products, precious and base metals, coking coal, fertilisers, machinery, equipment, vehicles, tools, textiles, footwear and mineral products. Russia's imports from South Africa were dominated by fruits, mineral products, machinery, equipment, vehicles, chemical products, precious and base metals, raw hides, textiles and footwear.
Mutual investment projects in progress in both countries are mainly engaged in mineral resources. A number of major Russian companies operate in South Africa, among them Renova Group (manganese and alloys), OJSCMMC Norilsk Nickel (nickel and associated metals), EVRAZ Group S.A. (steel, alloys, and vanadium), OAO Severstal (steel).
The countries are building up consistently the partnership in industrial and technological cooperation. Along with the exploration and production of manganese ore under the project United Manganese of Kalahari (1.4 million tonnes annually), Renova Group is working on the construction of a ferroalloy plant (the investments - 250 million dollars) and the project to create solar parks. The mining and metallurgical company Norilsk Nickel makes investments in the production and processing of copper-nickel ores (the joint venture Nkomati), in the projects for the production of platinum group metals and the creation of a South African national fund of mining and geological prospecting. Evraz Group S.A. owns 85% of stock in the joint venture, which is the largest world vanadium supplier and one of leading steel producers. Severstal produces hot briquetted iron. The Russian National Telemedicine Agency implements a pilot project for the creation of a national telemedicine system in South Africa. The United Aircraft Corporation promotes Russian airplanes (Tu-204SM, Superjet 100, An-148, MS-21) on the South African market.
The regional maintenance centre for civilian helicopters produced in Russia was launched in Johannesburg with the participation of Helicopters of Russia. The Russian machine-building and industrial group Concern Tractor Plants considers possible supplies to South Africa.
South African economic operators have in turn been quite active in the Russian market, to name SABMiller (brewery), Anglo American/ Mondi Group(paper and packaging), Naspers (international media), Bateman and Shaft Sinkers (engineering), Anglo American Platinum (mining), Standard Bank(banking, finance).
The Joint Inter-Governmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) between Russia and South Africa was established in 1999 as a coordinating bilateral body to exploit trade and investment opportunities and identify and resolve potential obstacles in areas of cooperation.
Russian ITEC chapter is presently chaired by Sergey Donskoy, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, his South African counterpart is M.Nkoana Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
The most recent 11th ITEC session was held on 12-13 November 2012 in Moscow, its agenda included bilateral trade and economic issues, conventional and nuclear energy, space, science and technology, banking, mineral resources, agriculture and education. Two sides agreed to take steps to increase trade, while shifting the focus to high value-added products, as well as to enhance cooperation in high-technology areas.
During the 2006 Russia-South African summit the bilateral Business Council was established as a mechanism to bring together interested stakeholders in both countries. The Russian chapter of the Business Council is currently headed by Mr.Vladimir Kremer, Renova Group Managing Director, the South African part is chaired by Robert Gumede, a prominent South African businessman, Chairman of GUMA Group. The first Business Council joint session convened in Moscow in February 2011 elaborated a list of cooperation priorities. The two sides also agreed to frequent interaction to enhance knowledge of commercial opportunities, while prioritising capacity building and skills transfer, particularly in high-technology areas. In November 2012 in the margins of the 11th ITEC session in Moscow hosted the third Business Council joint session attended by numerous companies and various business organisations from Russia and South Africa.