PARLIAMENT - The department of trade and industry is hoping to clinch a deal on post-Brexit trade relations with the United Kingdom by Friday, director general Lionel October said on Wednesday, but uncertainty about Westminister's future ties with Europe were putting elements of the arrangement in question.
South Africa and its trade partners in the Southern African Customs Union as well as Mozambique have negotiated an agreement that will apply, or roll over, the terms of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union into a standalone deal with the UK, once it leaves the bloc.
There are still two outstanding finer points however -- cumulation and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.
The former becomes tricky if the UK were to crash out of the European Union with no preferential trade agreement, DTI deputy director general Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter told MPs.
South Africa's ability to source products from the UK to use as part of beneficiated export materials to the EU would be compromised. But if and when a preferential trade deal is agreed between the EU and the UK, cumulation would be allowed.
The nature of the future relationship between the EU and UK remains unknown, with British Prime Minister Teresa May suffering another defeat in efforts to have a deal on the term of withdrawal from Europe agreed on Tuesday.
British MPs were voting on Wednesday on a motion to reject a no-deal departure from the EU.
October said that should a no-deal scenario become reality, it would mean African nations would have to "engage in deeper negotiations".
The implications would be that Parliament, which rises next week for the last time before the May elections, would have to approve a measure.
A simple bridging accord that would be in place for six months until a formal roll-over agreement comes into place could however be signed off by a presidential minute.
A roll over still needs to make provision for South African exporters to have the certification they have with the EU extended to Britain.
Mlumbi-Peter said she did not expect this to pose any particular problem as "the UK has always been less protectionist than the other EU countries, so so we don't expect any non-tariff barriers to emerge".
- African News Agency (ANA)