Global Insider: EU-South Africa Trade Relations

At a summit in late-September 2010, the European Union and South Africa both expressed interest in concluding protracted negotiations over closer trade ties. In an e-mail interview, Stephen Hurt, senior lecturer in international relations at Oxford Brookes University, discusses relations between the EU and South Africa.

WPR: What is the historic context of EU-South Africa relations, and where do they stand today?

Stephen Hurt: Coordinated EU policy toward South Africa dates back to the mid-1970s, a time when foreign policy was usually seen as the preserve of EU member states. The two main initiatives during the apartheid era were a code of conduct for European firms operating in South Africa and aid programs channeled through the NGO sector. At the beginning of the post-apartheid era, the EU was South Africa's most-significant trading partner and biggest foreign investor. As a result, the new African National Congress-led government began negotiations with the EU in 1995 toward what became the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA). This came into effect in 2000 and included the creation of a free-trade agreement (FTA) between the two parties and the continued provision of development assistance from the EU. This relationship has been complicated by ongoing negotiations between the EU and seven regional groupings of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states over Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). The EU wants EPAs to include FTAs that are compatible with World Trade Organization rules.

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