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Feb 03, 2014

City of Houston looks to woo potential SA energy, trade partners

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City of Houston mayor Annise Parker
Photo: Bloomberg
City of Houston mayor Annise Parker
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In a bid to deepen the city’s trade relationship with South Africa, business, government and industry representatives from the self-titled “energy capital of the world”, the city of Houston, in the US, have embarked on a one-week trade mission to the country, led by Houston mayor Annise Parker.

Parker, who would lead a delegation on the sidelines of the fifth biennial C40 Mayors Summit, in Johannesburg, noted that there was “great” potential to strengthen the economic ties between the two parties, most specifically in the energy sector. 

Between February 1 and 8, the delegation, which included representatives from energy giants Aecom and CenterPoint Energy, and was sponsored by multinationals Chevron and Halliburton, would meet with high-level government officials and business decision-makers to further boost yearly trade between Houston and South Africa, which totalled $1.3-billion in 2012.

Representatives from Houston-area companies specialising in aviation, property and international trade and investments were also members of the delegation, which would this week host a “Doing Business with Houston” seminar for engagement with the South African private sector and investment community.

“With a strong emerging market like South Africa, it makes sense from both a business and cultural perspective to have strong ties to the area.  I look forward to working with South African leaders to ensure that our city and state are able to continue the solid partnership that has served both so well,” Texas state senator and mission delegate Rodney Ellis noted at a press briefing, in Johannesburg, on Monday.

Houston and South Africa had established cultural and economic ties, with over 370 Houston-based companies reporting business or trade ties with the country.

Of the 214 firms in the Houston region affiliated with subsidiaries in South Africa, 14 were headquartered in Houston, namely energy firm Camac International, oilfield services company Baker Hughes, oil and gas major National Oilwell Varco and oil and natural gas multinational Weatherford International. 

In addition, South African petrochemicals giant Sasol operated two subsidiary locations in Houston.

“Moreover, since 2000, total yearly trade between South Africa and Houston grew at a compound yearly growth rate of 8.9%,” added Ellis.

The Houston Customs District was ranked South Africa’s fifth-largest US gateway for international trade by value, while South Africa ranked as Houston’s thirty-ninth-largest international trade partner by value.

Houston’s exports to South Africa totalled $923.6-million in 2012, while Houston’s imports from South Africa rose 4.8% in the same year to $423.9-million.

In terms of seaborne trade, Houston ranked as South Africa’s fourth-largest US gateway for international seaborne trade, while total seaborne trade between Houston and South Africa totalled $1.2-billion in 2012.

Trade promotion organisation the Greater Houston Partnership International Investment & Trade VP Genaro Peña described Houston’s economy as “diverse and robust”, adding that it “matched up well” with the types of industries being pursued locally.

“We are excited about the growth prospects this trade mission presents us and South Africa. We believe that Houston presents a great opportunity for expanding South African firms looking to do business overseas,” he commented.

Houston Airport System director Mario Diaz added that, as Houston already boasted a strong record of training African aviation professionals from all three major airports in South Africa, the delegation would also pursue engagement with several aviation stakeholders.

"We are looking forward to starting a vigorous dialogue with officials from South African Airways and OR Tambo International Airport while we are in the Johannesburg area. We will also meet with members of the aerospace industry as we continue to pursue our spaceport licence at Ellington Airport, in Texas,” he pointed out.

According to the US Census Bureau, almost 2 200 Houston-area residents were born in South Africa, while almost 1 100 Houston residents had South African ancestry.

Edited by: Tracy Hancock
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