To Liberalise or not to liberalise? A review of the South African Government's trade policy

"Trade policy is a central feature of the South African government's economic policy. In the early years of the transition to democratic rule it was widely debated. This debate receded recently, but is returning to centre stage as government's trade negotiators tackle a series of significant negotiations. Yet trade policy is generally not well understood outside of the small circle of practitioners and thinkers involved in its formulation. At a time when trade policy is returning to the center-stage of South Africa's economic policy debate, it is necessary to remind ourselves where we stand on these issues, and chart possible future directions. This paper is intended to be a small contribution to that process. Section Two assesses a stylised debate between 'free-traders' and 'protectionists' in light of various strands of academic theory. It concludes that trade liberalisation is generally good for promoting competitiveness and that the latter is essential in a globalising world. Section Three assesses government's trade policy by looking at the thinking of the Department of Trade and Industry, the main formulator and implementer of trade policy in South Africa. The concluding remarks summarise the central argument in this paper in light of South Africa's experience with trade policy."