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The four pillars of South African agricultural trade policy

Trade Briefs

The four pillars of South African agricultural trade policy

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In discussing the trade policy regime for South African agriculture it is useful to place these policies into a framework. That framework is to use a ‘four pillars’ approach, and these four pillars of trade policy are:

  • Unilateral (what South Africa does to its own policies);

  • Bilateral (what arrangements it may make between South Africa and selected partners such as the EU and the TDCA);

  • Regional (the SACU and SADC dimension, for example); and

  • Multilateral (with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as the main example).

Although it can become a little difficult to see where the exact boundaries are, the ‘pillars’ give a useful framework to evaluate trade policies, although one needs to always consider that trade policies cannot be viewed in isolation from other policy changes taking place both within the sector and outside the sector with respect to ‘flanking’ policies such as competition policies, for example.

The objective of this paper is to briefly put these four pillars in perspective and then look at what they may individually and collectively mean for South Africa’s way ahead. The paper draws heavily from the recent tralac book, South Africa’s way ahead? trade policy options.


Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.

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