It would be ideal for SA to finalise trade agreements with the UK ahead of March 29, when Britain is set to leave the EU, Parliament’s oversight committee on trade and industry heard on Tuesday.
The committee was briefed by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on efforts to lock in deals with the UK – one of SA’s most important trading partners – before the Brexit deadline.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen on the 29th of March. I don’t think that anyone in Britain can say either what exactly is going to happen. There is a possibility Britain may crash out of EU without agreement,” Davies said.
The UK is SA’s second biggest trading partner in the EU, and SA’s largest trading partner in the EU for agricultural products, according to the department.
Deal or no-deal
If Britain leaves the EU without a deal it would have to revert to using World Trade Organistion’s trade rules said Davies He said this would not be a positive outcomes for SA, as the UK would have to pay duties on auto products or agricultural goods like fruit and wine.
The SA government has been working to avoid this, he said. “We have already got a fairly generous outcome on the tariff rate quotas on the agricultural products,” Davies told the committee.
There are two outstanding issues that the UK government still has to respond to, the minister said. These are how to deal with “rules of origin” and how they apply to products from the rest of the EU once the UK leaves, as well as whether Sanitary and Phytosanitary Certificates will still apply following Brexit.
Davies said that there is here is a rush to finalise deals and implored that the committee would ratify the plans as soon as they come. “We want to finish this thing,” he said. “I have been saying to the British my clock is not ticking down to March 29, it is much shorter than that.
“We (government) have been saying to them, really in next few days, we need to finish this thing.”
Fin24, 26 February 2019