We welcome today’s announcement by Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, that an agreement has been reached with the United Kingdom to roll over the European Union Economic Partnership Agreement.
This is a welcome development for South African businesses engaged in trade with the UK.
Growing the economy and creating jobs is a priority for the Western Cape government. Having an agreement in place that ensures continuity of trade preferences with the UK after Brexit provides a significant level of certainty to exporters from the Western Cape, both in the short and the long term.
The United Kingdom is an important market for South African and Western Cape exports. It was the Western Cape’s second largest export destination in 2018, and South Africa’s fourth largest. South Africa exported R36.92-billion worth of goods to the UK in 2018, and R9.67-billion from the Western Cape. Wine was the leading export category to the UK from the Western Cape, with exports valued at R1.89 billion in 2018.
While the agreement reached between SACU, Mozambique and the UK brings much needed security for exporters, there are still uncertainties that remain, one of the largest concerns being around the ease of goods physically entering the UK in the case of a hard Brexit.
The Western Cape Government and Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, have been, and will continue to actively engage industry in preparation for Brexit.
For example, in 2016, Wesgro together with the Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities and the British Consul General, hosted a seminar on the implications of Brexit, and in March this year Wesgro hosted a Brexit-readiness workshop attended by the Minister of Trade and Industry and the British High Commissioner to South Africa. Another seminar is being planned for October.
The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) and Wesgro also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at enhancing the trade and investment relationship between the United Kingdom and the Western Cape, and securing positive trade and investment outcomes post-Brexit.
More recently the Western Cape Government and Wesgro hosted a roundtable discussion with export councils in the Western Cape to seek input from industry and determine their biggest concerns about Brexit. Exporters have also been engaged by way of survey to gauge the level of concern and of readiness for a no-deal Brexit.