The TDCA is the legal basis for overall relations between South Africa and the EU. The Agreement was signed in October 1999 after five years of negotiations. It was provisionally applied – but only partially – from 1 January 2000, and fully entered into force on 1 May 2004 after ratification by all signatory parties from 1 May 2004.
The Agreement basically covers five areas of cooperation, namely on Political Dialogue, Development Cooperation, Cooperation in Trade and Trade-related areas, Economic Cooperation and Cooperation in other Areas. Its main objective is to create a free-trade area between South Africa and the EU over a 12-year period (i.e. by 2012).
Europe continues to be South Africa's biggest source of foreign direct investment and accounts for almost half of South Africa's total foreign trade. EU development aid for South Africa is mainly granted using the Community budget, through the financing instrument for development cooperation. For the period 2007-13, the DCI has a budget of Euro 980 million for South Africa.
South Africa is also now Europe’s 15th largest trading partner. Trade with the original 15 EU member states (EU-15), who signed the TDCA with SA in 1999, increased tremendously between 2000 and 2007. Total trade increased from R140 billion in 2000 to R240 billion. During the same period, exports increased from R66.1 billion to R124 billion, while imports increased from R74.5 billion to R180 billion. Bilateral trade between South Africa and the new EU member states is also burgeoning. For example between 2000 and 2004 total trade with the new EU member states increased by 234% from R1.53 billion to R5.11billion, while from 2004 to 2007, it increased by 170%, to R13.78 billion.
Following a review of the TDCA in 2004, which was conducted in terms of the requirements of articles 18 and 103 of the TDCA calling for a review within five years of its entry into force, South Africa and the EU negotiated new texts during 2007 under Titles I (Political Dialogue), IV (Economic Cooperation), V (Development Cooperation), VI (Other areas of cooperation, and VII (Financial aspects of cooperation) of the Agreement. TDCA Revision negotiations were officially launched in Pretoria on 29 March 2007 and on 10 October 2007 the two chief negotiators initialled a total of 35 new and revised articles. As regards the revision of the trade chapters (Title II – Trade, and Title III – Trade related issues), it was decided in March 2007 to de-link them from the broader TDCA revision and to conduct them under the SADC EPA negotiating process. The TDCA Amendment Agreement is expected to be signed during the 2nd SA-EU Summit in September 2009.