This year’s Agbiz Congress was held on 7 and 8 June at the Boardwalk International Convention Centre in Port Elizabeth. Trade competitiveness and navigating trade policy came under discussion.

Trade competitiveness

 Prof. Wilma Viviers, director of Trade and Development (TRADE) at the North-West University and World Trade Organisation (WTO) chair, took a closer look at how to efficiently identify the most promising export opportunities. She explained why identification of export opportunities continues to be important for South Africa.

 South Africa’s National Export Strategy 2007 encapsulates the challenge of the lack of a scientific method to prioritise markets and products that resulted in a shotgun approach to export promotion. The challenge lies in how to select and prioritise markets from a global list of export opportunities.”

 She pointed out that South Africa’s Integrated National Export Strategy (INES, 2015) focusses on increasing exports through diversification of products, markets (Africa and emerging markets) and suppliers (exporters base), and secondly, specifically sectors where South Africa already has competitive advantage, e.g. agriculture and agro-processing.

In conjunction with Prof. Viviers’ presentation, Martin Cameron, managing director of TRADE Research Advisory (Pty) Ltd, asked the audience the following question: What would you define as a realistic export opportunity?

 “One has to target the market operational environment, market import demand characteristics, target barriers to entry and degree of market concentration, and categorise untapped potential.”

“Trade facilitation and cost reduction strategies can help to unlock South Africa’s economic potential through increased exports, and more scientific fact-based market intelligence should be at the centre of strategic decision making and trade facilitation initiatives to increase trade in goods and services between South Africa and the rest of the world – also for agro-industry related stakeholders,” he said.

Navigating South Africa’s trade policy direction and investment opportunities

Sifiso Ntombele of Agbiz took a closer look at South Africa’s trade relations with the rest of the world. He discussed the possibility of a market identification strategy for better access to new and existing markets, as well as multi-lateralism and regional partnerships to address trade distorting factors, and the trade and environmental nexus.

On changing destinations for South African agricultural exports, Ntombela said, “We’re trading progressively more with our African neighbours and Asia, the latter being a growing market and we need broader access and bilateral trade agreements with them. The European market still remains a critical market for South Africa’s agricultural exports.”

However, he also said that South Africa’s plastic, carbon, fuel, sugar and other environmental taxes must be considered, as it has an impact on importers. – Carin Venter, Farmbiz

Click here to read more about the 2018 Agbiz congress.

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