SA, Chile foster trade, military ties

Pretoria - Trade, investment, and military co-operation were discussed when President Jacob Zuma met his Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet Jeria at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday.

"Chile has expressed interest in South Africa's master energy plan and we have agreed that dialogue between the relevant ministries should take place to discuss our co-operation," Zuma told reporters.

"We would also like to co-operate on defence matters, utilising their experience in this regard. We also envisage co-operation among the navies of the two countries, given the extensive coastlines and challenges like piracy, drugs, and human trafficking," he said.

Bachelet, who is on a State visit until Sunday, was welcomed at the Union Buildings on Friday with a military parade and a 21-gun salute.

She said her visit was a "perfect moment to set a new pace" in bilateral relations between Pretoria and Santiago.

"We truly believe that South Africa and Chile are like-minded countries. We share a lot of different values," said Bachelet.

"We believe that we can also bring resources from both countries to co-operate trilaterally with less developed countries of Africa, joining efforts and funds. We have a fund for fighting hunger and poverty."

In a statement the presidency said South Africa was Chile's largest trading partner in Africa.

South Africa was one of the largest foreign investors in the Chilean mining sector. South African companies regularly participated in large international mining exhibitions in Chile.

The top exports from South Africa were steel and related products which amounted to 61.6% of total exports to the South American country.

Around 37% of Chilean exports to Africa were destined for South Africa.

While in South Africa, Bachelet will deliver a key-note address at the 12th Nelson Mandela annual lecture in Cape Town.

She invited Zuma to visit Chile in a bid to foster relations.

"He has agreed and we hope to see him soon over there," she said.

Bachelet is a former head of the United Nations entity for the empowerment of women and gender Equality (UN Women).