Under the CDAA EPA, the EU has eliminated all or part of tariffs on 98.7% of imports from South Africa, while guaranteeing unrestricted access to other signatory countries. Today, the EU is South Africa`s main trading and investment partner. The EPA contributes to improving the business climate between partners by providing businesses with a stable and forward-looking environment in South Africa and throughout the African region. It contributes to the promotion of bilateral and regional trade and thus offers new opportunities to achieve the objectives of the strategic partnership between South Africa and the EU. As part of government policy, the South African government is seeking to further open its market in order to increase trade and develop more competitive domestic industries. However, in 2006, the South African government made exceptions to this approach to protect the labour-intensive apparel industry. During 2020, the South African authorities took emergency measures to limit all goods and people traffic as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic; These have been partially removed. South Africa signed a major free trade agreement with the European Union in 1999. This agreement not only had a lasting effect on South Africa itself, but also set the conditions for stronger EU (and EFTA) action to get African nations to commit to greater trade and investment policy liberalization over the next decade, notably through the EPA negotiation process between the EU and ACP countries. South Africa alone has a bilateral free trade agreement with SADC (Southern Africa Development Cooperation). There are also preferential agreements with Malawi, Zimbabwe and Croatia, as well as a non-reciprocal trade agreement with Mozambique. It is currently considering other bilateral agreements with Kenya, Nigeria, China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and India. At the end of 2011, it rejected a proposal for a free trade agreement put forward by Turkey, which would lead to destructive competition that would undermine South Africa`s industrial and employment objectives.

During apartheid, South Africa`s foreign trade and investment were hit by sanctions and boycotts from other countries that were ideologically opposed to apartheid. In 1970, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 282 imposing a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa, which was extended by subsequent resolutions 418 and 591, which declared the embargo mandatory. In 1978, in South Africa, loans were banned by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, followed in 1983 by a ban on IMF lending. In 1983, OPEC imposed an oil embargo, which was strengthened by Iran in 1979. Since the end of apartheid, foreign trade in South Africa has increased following the lifting of several sanctions and boycotts imposed to end apartheid. Currently, the United Arab Emirates is also a major trading partner with African buyers/importers. Below is a list of existing trade agreements signed by South Africa.