Having emerged from the international isolation of the apartheid era in 1994, South Africa today plays a prominent role in the international community. The most important international organisations of which South Africa is a member include the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU).
South Africa’s principal foreign policy objective is to develop good relations with all countries, especially its neighbours in the Southern African Development Community and the other members of the African Union. South Africa has played a key role in seeking an end to various conflicts and political crises on the African continent, including in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, and Zimbabwe. In August 1998, South Africa assumed the chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, which it relinquished in July 2002.
South Africa’s reticence towards the Zimbabwean crisis has drawn considerable criticism, particularly from the West. Recently, South Africa has played a more active part in the attempts to urged the parties in Zimbabwe to form a unity government.
International trade with South Africa has also grown significantly after 1994. The country Africa has signed several preferential trade agreements, both regional and bilateral. South Africa was a founding member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1947), and is an active member of the World Trade Organisation.
South Africa's participation in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), comprising 14 sub-Saharan African countries, allows access to a market of approximately 140-million, which is expected to grow at an annual rate of around 3 percent. The South African government is committed to reaching an agreement on trade, development and co-operation with the European Union (EU). It has also pursuing agreements for greater South-South co-operation countries such as Brazil, India, China, and so on.
South Africa has also been accorded a preferential trade status by the USA, European Union countries, Canada and Japan.