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Towards development-centred trade relations: a study of South Africa and the USA trade relations with particular focus on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

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With trade taking place continuously on a daily basis, its often-reported success gives the impression that all participants involved are to a certain extent somewhat successful too. This dissertation draws attention to the discrepancies that have often gone unnoticed throughout the decades and the effects that have arisen as a result. South Africa’s (SA) and the United States of America’s (US) trade relationship through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is the focus of this study, with this relationship being analysed from as far back as history has been recorded to the modern day. Least developed countries (LDCs) are an integral part of this study because most trade-related activities involve them, and they contain most of the world’s natural resources, but most importantly they also make up a large portion of the world’s population. It's baffling to see that where these factors are present, there's also inequality. Seemingly, there are efforts that deal specifically with the challenges faced by developing countries, but what is concerning is these solutions are formulated by developed countries which created them and continue to perpetuate them. The approach adopted was mostly that of contrasting events that have involved trade over the decades and a discussion of how these events have shaped international, political and trade relations, that is, the existing status quo. Examples include the two World Wars; oppressive regimes such as apartheid; and the formation of global institutions ranging from the International Trade Organization (ITO) to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The first three chapters contain an introduction, a background focus on development and the history of relations between South Africa and the United States of America. The last two chapters contain a discussion on AGOA as well as findings and recommendations that can be implemented to assist with this issue. What this dissertation was aiming to establish was the perpetual involvement of developed countries in the affairs of developing countries. This is illustrated through the renegotiation of the AGOA in 2015, where SA had to accept ultimatums set for it by the US. This dissertation further shows that such tactics are nothing new when the US is involved, as is evidenced by its involvement in major global events that have shaped the course of history. This approach is not only harmful but also stagnates development, as developing countries must adhere to agreements that sometimes are not to their benefit. The findings indicate a contradictory pattern: when solutions to challenges faced by developing countries are presented, they translate instead into a further stronghold over developing countries because of past atrocities such as colonisation and apartheid. What appears throughout the dissertation are the ever-present structures that are intended to perform functions supposed to be for the improved good of developing countries, but which result in those countries facing never-ending challenges, some of which are self-inflicted through alliances such as the AGOA with developed countries.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.