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National Assembly
Parliamentary bodies dealing with international trade :
Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry

Type of parliamentary body Multifunctional
Nature Permanent
Related to chambers National Assembly
Date of creation 1994
Last renewal date
Mandate Section 231 of the Constitution determines the role of Parliament with regard to international agreements, including international trade agreements. International agreements are largely the responsibility of the Executive but become binding or effective after the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) approves an agreement by resolution. Before trade negotiations begin, the Minister of Trade and Industry (who is generally the chief minister with regard to trade agreements) briefs the NA and NCOP parliamentary committees on the need for a trade agreement or the need for participation in a multilateral forum, including the broad policy position and possible challenges and implications. The Minister also outlines how these negotiations support the economic strategy of government. The Committee discusses the briefing by the Minister and makes recommendations thereon. During the course of the negotiations, the negotiators are frequently called to Parliament to provide a briefing and are also questioned by the members of the Committee. The Committee engages the Department of Trade and Industry on policy guidelines, studies the text of trade agreements, engages with negotiators and experts, initiates hearings with stakeholders, approves or rejects trade agreements, monitors the compliance of national legislation with international agreements and generally engages with the Minister on the social, economic and political implications of any trade agreements. Key trade agreements evaluated and monitored by the Committee include the European Union-South Africa-Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (EU-SA-TDCA) and the Southern African Development Community Free Trade Agreement (SADC-FTA).
Membership Parliament is elected for a five year term. Appointing members to committees is the responsibility of the individual political parties, but is determined by the share of votes and distribution of seats by the different political parties. In the National Assembly the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, chaired by Benedict Anthony Duke Martins, is composed of 24 members - 14 members from the African National Congress (ANC), two members from the Democratic Alliance, two members from the Inkhata Freedom Party, two members from the Independent Democrats (ID), one member from the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), one member from the Azanian Peoples Organisation (AZAPO), one member from the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and one member from the Minority Front (MF).
Working methods The drafting of the Committee agenda is a largely political process with political parties identifying areas that need to be addressed. The Committee Chairperson drafts the agenda considering the key activities of the Department of Trade and Industry- policy and legislation. The agenda includes areas to be considered, dates and resource people to be invited. The programme is made public through the various parliamentary monitoring bodies and the parliamentary information services. Proceedings of the Committee are public with regular invitations being sent to stakeholders for specific submissions. The Committee regularly organizes public hearings and section 56 of the Constitution makes provision for the Committee to summon any person to appear before it to give evidence or to produce documents. Decisions by the Committee are generally made on the basis of consensus but where agreement cannot be reached members resort to voting. The Committee engages with the Department and other stakeholders at frequent intervals with regard to implementation. The Information Services Section (ISS) of Parliament provides information and research support to Parliament, parliamentary committees, members of parliament and the parliamentary administration. The ISS consists of the Library and Research Unit. The Library subscribes to the major international trade journals, trade data bases and multilateral institutions. The Research Unit provides analytical and conceptual analysis on major trade topics. The ISS manages information on trade topics. At a multilateral level key sources of information include the WTO, the IPU, CPA, the United Nations, UNCTAD etc. The Department of Trade and Industry also provides the Committee with information. University Departments of Economics and Research Institutes like the Trade Law Centre (TRALAC) at the University of Stellenbosch provide sources of technical information. The Committee generally conducts hearings on the major trade agreements. Reports and recommendations are made public. The Department of Trade and Industry is frequently requested to respond to the Committee findings. Members of the Committee are frequently invited to accompany government delegations to trade negotiations, including WTO negotiations. On their return, members of parliament submit reports, which are considered by the Committee.
Relations with other parliamentary bodies Due to the nature of international trade agreements, other committees including those dealing with agriculture, labour, communications and environmental affairs are also included to deal with trade issues. Joint briefings and hearings are organized with the Trade and Industry Committee being the lead Committee. Parliamentary reports on trade issues have generally been joint reports by the different committees. Information submitted to Parliament by one Department is forwarded to the other relevant committees.
Relations with external bodies The Committee engages both government and civil society through briefings and hearings on trade agreements and the implications of trade agreements. Members of the Committee are frequently invited to participate in policy reference groups for government departments while civil society organizations invite members of parliament to panel discussions and debates. It is customary for members of the Committee to attend major multilateral negotiating forums, such as the WTO Ministerial Conferences, as part of the official national delegation.
Subjects dealt with The following issues have been dealt with by the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry and the Select Committee on Economics and Foreign Affairs: European Union - South Africa - Trade Development Cooperation Agreement (EU-SA-TDCA); Southern African Development Community (SADC) Trade Protocol; Southern African Customs Union (SACU); WTO Ministerial Conferences; Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA); SACU-US Free Trade Agreement; Free Trade Agreements with Brazil, India and China; African Union (AU) and Pan African Parliament; African Caribbean Pacific - European Union (ACP-EU) - Cotonou Agreement.
Main address Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. P.O. Box 15, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
Phone +2721 403 3799
Fax +2721 403 2141
Name Mr. Benedict Anthony Duke Martins
Notes Chairperson, Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry
Address (if different from above) Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. P.O. Box 15, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
Phone +2721 403 3234
Fax +2721 403 8718
E-mail bmartins@parliament.gov.za
Name Ms. Zanele Mene
Notes Section Manager, Committee Section
Address (if different from above) Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. P.O. Box 15, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
E-mail zmene@parliament.gov.za
web site:
Name Mr. Masibonge Mzwakali
Notes Committee Secretary, Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry
Address (if different from above) Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. P.O. Box 15, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
Phone +2721 403 3799
Fax +2721 403 2141
E-mail mmzwakali@parliament.gov.za
web site:

Information on this page was last updated on 13 September 2005
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