Trade and Industry

Trade Policy and Trade Flow Analysis- SADC Regional integration: What role have bilateral trade agreements played in promoting intra-regional trade?

  • Year: 2009
  • Organisation: Commonwealth Secretariat ‘Hub & Spokes’ Project
  • Publication Author(s): James Maringwa
  • Countries and Regions: Southern African Development Community (SADC)
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Member countries of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) engaged in a number of bilateral trade liberalisation agreements and initiatives from as way back as the 1950s, the main objective being to increase bilateral trade flows through deeper opening and access of regional markets. Southern African countries saw these ‘country to country' trade agreements coupled with the adoption, by the SADC region, of a ‘Protocol on Trade' (TP) in 1996, and its implementation from 2000, was viewed as a coherent trade policy strategy to promote regional economic growth and help reduce poverty. Bilateral trade flows have been analysed on sensitive products textiles and apparel, cereals and vehicles between SADC countries that have signed bilateral trade agreements between themselves and implemented the SADC TP which led to the adoption of a SADC Free Trade Area in 2008. Analysis focused on sensitive products because preferential bilateral trade agreements seem to be more generous (offer better concessions) on these products as compared to commitments member states undertook at the wider regional level under the SADC TP. Trade creation on wheat and sugar products dominates trade diversion even though the percentage increase in trade in these products is small. Moreover, there is no conclusive evidence that bilateral trade agreements increased bilateral trade flows beyond the market access opportunities provided by the SADC TP except only for textile products from Malawi into South Africa. SADC countries need to do more to implement commitments in their bilateral trade agreements to realise the real market access benefits of trade liberalisation.