South African market access challenges in the European Union: a case of regulatory compliance and non-tariff measures

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Hlungwani, Khanimamba
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African Economic Research Consortium
The World Trade Organization (WTO) was formed in 1995. Since then, trade liberalisation has been on the agenda, resulting in diverse trade agreements and a subsequent decline in import tariffs. With the decrease in import tariffs, trade is expected to increase. However, despite this trend as well as a great increase in global trade since the 1990s, certain developing countries still struggle to participate in global trade. South Africa and the European Union (EU) trade agreements have existed since 2000. This is through the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA)—later replaced by the Southern African Development Community-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (SADC-EU EPA) in 2016. The expected result of such agreements is an improvement in trade relations and flows between the partners. Thus, it can be expected that South Africa would export more orientated products to the EU. South Africa became a net beef exporter in 2014. Trade flows for beef between South Africa and the EU, however, reveal the opposite of what was expected. Beef exports from South Africa to the EU have declined since the early 2000s. Trade patterns demonstrate that South Africa increasingly traded with countries with which it had no formal trade agreements, such as in the Middle East and East Asia. South African beef exports to the EU rapidly declined despite trade liberalisation between the two trading partners and South Africa becoming a net beef exporter. Thus, this research investigates South Africa’s market access challenges in the EU.