AECI Gives James Bond a Big Bang

Let’s face it.  There is a bit too much bad news around these days.   So I was delighted to hear of something we should all be proud of – in a very unexpected place.

It was the AECI results presentation this week, and as well as the usual financial slides and divisional reporting, there was a video section devoted to the James Bond movie, SPECTRE.

The scene which was highlighted featured a very big explosion – believed to be the largest ever in a movie.

As Daniel Craig and some Bond babe looked down, a whole complex went up in flame. The earth moved, and Craig’s features almost showed some expression.

So what was AECI’s role?

Well. They are known for providing explosives, and for Spectre they provided the blasting caps and timers to ensure the Bond explosion went to plan, with a big, big, big bang and lots of flame.

South African technology in the desert of Morocco for a film about a British secret agent?

Bravo AECI.

Tweet of the Day:

Irrationally Calm (@dire_beard): [Russian Roulette] *hammer lands on empty chamber* Damnit! I never win anything

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EU Poised to Pay R225m to ZA Wine Industry

EU Ambassador to ZA Marcus Cornaro has confirmed to ZA Confidential that a €15m EU fund for supporting the South African wine industry should soon be available.

ZA Confidential understands the payment, equivalent to over R225m, was part of an earlier Wines and Spirits Agreement between Brussels and Pretoria, which also included the condition that ZA should cease using the terms “port” and “sherry” for its fortified wines.

The Ambassador confirmed that this earlier agreement on alcohol was not ratified, but has now been incorporated into the EU’s new Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was recently signed with ZA and its SADC neighbours.

“We have re-committed the €15m,” he said.

“It is a refreshment of an older commitment.

“The earlier agreement was never ratified.”

The Ambassador said that EU officials are in talks with the Trade and Industry Department (dti) and with the Department of Agriculture on details of how the money will be allocated.

Two thirds of the fund will go to boosting employment and BEE, with the aim of securing a genuine impact on transformation and job creation in the wine industry.

The other third would go to supporting the marketing and promotion efforts of the ZA wine industry. “We are about to finalise the modalities and detailed objectives,” said Cornaro.

The EPA itself is also expected to bring additional benefits to the ZA wine industry, allowing greater access for exports to the European market.



In another development, the Ambassador suggested that with the EPA negotiations having recently been concluded, ZA is in a far more comfortable position in facing the challenges which will arise from the UK’s Brexit vote.

“With the EPA, SA is not a big demander in the equation,” he stated. “Myself and the U.K. High Commissioner will argue that once the landing zone is clearer, and if SA is happy to preserve the EPA, they are starting it from the most comfortable position of the three.”   (The three parties he referred to are South Africa, the EU and the UK.)

The Ambassador said that the EU was a massive supporter of ZA’s transformation to a democracy “spending €1bn per decade for first two decades.

“I still get credit over a lot of the support which was received,” he noted.

He said that although EU support for ZA has been reduced to around €250m over 4-5 years, ‘we are in a very healthy partnership relationship, using the money to further leverage reforms.”


Tweet of the Day:

Jewish Comedians (@JewishComedians): Rodney Dangerfield: My father carries around the picture of the kid who came with his wallet. | #Quotes


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Die Vine Intervention: Aristargos and Paardebosch Pinotage

The unusual Michael Olivier has tracked down two lesser known wines to tickle the tonsils of our Johannesburg tasting panel.

They are from David and Nadia Sadie Wines: the 2014 David Aristargos and the 2014 Paardebosch Pinotage.

The Johannesburg tasters are Cape Wine Master Debi van Flymen from Grapeslave, Corlien Morris from Wine Menu, Absa’s Chris Gilmour and our most-loved squatter Jeremy Sampson.

Check out the podcast:

Davies Confident on Post-Brexit ZA Trade

Having already argued that South Africa must be aggressive in preserving what has been won in the past, as we enter the rough seas of Brexit trade negotiations, I was pleased to see our trade and industry minister Rob Davies being able to shed a little light on strategy, after addressing an African trade launch in Pretoria.

Davies said the British have told us they foresee no big interruption in our trade, and indeed they may be more open on agricultural regulations than other EC countries.

There is still no clarity on how relations will be structured, but South Africa wants this to be based on the EU’s current regional framework for trade, the EPA.

The EPA and other trade deals gives ZA some advantages in terms of tariff rate quotas, and when the EU enlarged ZA didn’t get additional quotas.

“That being the case, we feel there should be no reduction if a member leaves,” Davies said.

He wasn’t sure when the British will trigger Brexix, but he doubted that all the trade issues could be tied up within the two-years beyond that, as is planned.

“The biggest impact of Brexit is not going to be in trade – the UK only accounts for 4% of total SA trade,” said Davies.   “The biggest impact will be what uncertainty does for us. We are watching it. I did write to the UK High Commissioner to mark our territory.”

Whatever the politicians say publicly, there is a lot at stake, and protectionist forces are bound to rear their heads. It will be a tough few years.

In another development, Davies launched the new Africa Investment and Trade office – ironically on the same day his officials are in Zimbabwe, trying to reverse that country’s recent import bans on ZA goods.


Tweet of the Day:

Bill Murray (@BiIIMurray): It’s amazing how many people are allergic to gluten, peanuts, and facts.


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Rob Davies Must Start Hounding Fox

For a couple of decades, on and off, I have been keeping an eye on ZA’s trade relations with the EU. Now that the Brits are Brexiting, there are a number of uncertainties and concerns for us.

As one of the most astute ZA commentators and Euro-watchers Dr John Mare suggested to me over what turned out to be a deeply indigestible Col Caccio pizza (not John’s fault – it was probably the raw onions), there are a number of scenarios.

I won’t bore you with them all, save to note that the EU currently has a trade treaty with ZA and its neighbours, and in theory Britain’s exiting from the EU will mean exiting from this relationship, which currently gives us preferential access to the EU (including UK) market.

The most elegant way out of this would be if the EU would just roll over everything in its relationship with ZA, Tippexing out all the references to the UK, and if Britain were to adopt it all, bilaterally, without any fuss.

However, there is always the temptation to meddle, to seek a slightly better deal.

Let us remember that the ‘Club Med’ members of the EU fought hard to water down the agricultural concessions which have been given to ZA in the past, and imposed all sorts of protectionist nonsense – like the rules which prevent us from calling our sherry ‘sherry’ and our port ‘port.’   And don’t get me started on Champagne.   Or rather do – as a drink but not as a topic for debate.

Remember, too, that Europe liked Mandela and was happy to lavish him with support. Jacob Zuma is a very different creature, and far less loved internationally.

So there is scope for damage to ZA’s trade interests, both in new negotiations with Britain and in preserving what it has achieved in negotiations with pre-Brexit Brussels.

We must also recognise that ZA won’t be the top of the agenda in London or Brussels, as there is an avalanche of EU red tape which will need to be Brexited, and trade relations with SA have never been front of the queue.

One encouraging development was the appointment by Theresa May of Liam Fox in a new post as International Trade Minister.

Were I ZA’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies I would be hounding Fox day and night.   Not with real hounds, though.

NB: Having worked alongside Boris Johnson when I was in the Brussels Press Corp I have only one reason to welcome his appointment as Britain’s new Foreign Secretary.   At least he didn’t make it into 10 Downing Street.

Tweet of the Day:

Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage): The appointment of @DavidDavisMP & @LiamFoxMP to Brexit and International Trade roles are inspired choices. I feel more optimistic now.


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