British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has promised to build better trade links with the African Commonwealth nations following the UK’s exit from the European Union, during a meeting with ministers from each country on Thursday and Friday last week.
Britain has pledged the nations that their trading relationships with the UK will either stay the same or improve after Brexit, and guaranteed they will not get worse.
Some Ministers want to go further and work towards establishing an African free trade zone.
One of the plans discussed in Whitehall predicts moves towards establishing enhanced trade relations with Commonwealth African nations, including Kenya, could continue until next year when Britain hosts the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in the spring where a deal could then be signed.
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Some trade specialists have poured cold water on the notion that Britain could strike a free-trade deal with the Commonwealth in its entirety due to the number and diversity of the countries involved.
The issue is complicated by the fact that most already have some preferential access to the EU or are negotiating a free-trade deal.
Lord Marland, chairman of the Commonwealth enterprise and investment council, said that the meeting would explore ways to boost trade between the countries. “When the UK joined the EU it tore up its previous agreements with Commonwealth allies and it will now need to set about rebuilding these relationships for trade,” he said. “Luckily these are old friendships, but as with all relationships, they will require a lot of effort to make them work.”
Ministers will also discuss implementing the World Trade Organisation’s recent trade facilitation agreement.
According to research commissioned by the World Trade Organisation in 2015, the Commonwealth nations’ shared legal and linguistic heritage reduces trading costs between them by an average of 19 per cent.