The TDCA was signed in 1999 and came into full effect in May 2004. The TDCA includes provisions for the establishment of a Free Trade Area by 2012, financial assistance and development cooperation, cooperation in trade related issues, economic cooperation, social and cultural cooperation and political dialogue. The trade provisions of the TDCA have been in effect since 2000, and cover approximately 90% of bilateral trade between the two partners. The TDCA remains the legal basis for bilateral relations between SA and the EC.

From an exporting perspective, TDCA has a decidedly agricultural slant. The agreement promotes various degrees of trade liberalisation, ranging from immediate liberalisation to liberalisation over longer periods of up to 10 years by the EU and 12 years by SA. In terms of the agreement, South Africa agrees to remove duties on approximately 81% of its imports of agricultural products from the EC while the EC will remove duties on approximately 61% of the EC’s total imports of agricultural products from South Africa. If the partial liberalisation quotas that were granted in addition to the full liberalisation schedules are included, the latter figure goes up to 72%.

Both parties also have a reserve list of sensitive products that they exclude from liberalisation for the interim. Bananas, sugar, beef, rice, maize, sweetcorn, starches and many fruits and vegetables are among the products on the EU reserve list. SA has excluded products such as fresh meats, dairy products, some cereals and sugar products. The reserve lists is subject to future review.

More information about the TDCA trade agreement