Re-engaging with the global trading system : the political economy of trade policy reform in post-apartheid South Africa, 1994-2004
The thesis examines the political economy of trade policy reform in post-apartheid South Africa. It challenges mainstream accounts of contemporary trade policy in South Africa, which have advanced a solely economic rationale to explain the policy choices made by the ANC governments since 1994. The thesis argues that, far more than these accounts concede, international and domestic political economy considerations have also played a central part in the ANC governments' calculations to undertake trade reform to the degree it has. Trade reform in South Africa has been the linchpin of a global adjustment strategy pursued by the domestic political elites by which they have sought to fulfill South Africa's global, regional and domestic political and economic objectives. At the global level, the South African state has vigorously pursued trade liberalisation in order to shed its past image of international pariah and reintegrate itself into the global economy on the basis of outward-oriented growth. Restoring South Africa's international political respectability has been as important as reversing its economic marginalisation in the international division of labour. At the regional level, the South African state has used trade policy reform as a foreign economic policy tool not only to rebuild political and diplomatic relations with African countries strained during the apartheid era - but also to advance its hegemonic ambitions, particularly in Southern Africa, as well as reinforce the region's ability to engage with the forces of economic globalisation. The extent to which South Africa's regional hegemonic ambitions can be achieved, however, lies ultimately with how adeptly the country can reconcile these regional aspirations with its domestic pressures. At the domestic level, trade reform has been deployed by the decision-making elites not only to lock in the government's austere macroeconomic policy but also to curtail the power of domestic interests that have benefited from trade protectionism in the past. In return for their co-operation, the South African state has allowed these interests, notably business and labour, enhanced institutional representation in economic policymaking. In this sense trade policy has been employed to serve domestic as much as foreign political and economic policy ends.