South Africa will on Tuesday host the first European Union (EU) - Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) joint council meeting.
The meeting which will be held in Cape Town will provide an opportunity for the ministers of the SADC EPA states and the EU to discuss the state of play in the trade between the parties and how the EPA can contribute to inclusive and sustainable development.
The ministers will also consider a number of procedural issues such as the approval of the rules of procedure of the various committees created to oversee the implementation of the EPA, said Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
"The core objective of the SADC EPA Group and EU's joint efforts in implementing the agreement must be to ensure that the EPA enables sustainable development in the SADC EPA states through changing the structure of trade, including the fundamental structural imbalance in the trade between the parties, and promote enhance value-added trade," says Davies.
South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia signed the EPA that has been negotiated with the EU in June 2016.
The EPA provisionally entered into force on 10 October 2016 - replaced the trade chapter in the Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) between SA and the EU that entered into force in 2000.
Through the EPA, South Africa gained improved market access into the EU for agricultural products such as wine, sugar, ethanol and fruit, as well as for fisheries. SA exports to the EU have increased from R214 billion in 2015 to R262 billion in 2017.
Davis says SA exports to the EU are led by vehicles which contributed 26% of the country's total exports to the EU in 2017.
This is followed by precious stones and metals, nuclear reactors, edible fruit and nuts and ores, slag and ash which contributed 17%, 8%, 8% and 7% respectively in the same year.
"Although South Africa has managed to increase exports of value-added products to the EU, thus contributing to South Africa's industrial development objectives, there is still a need for further improvement in changing the structure of trade," said Davies.