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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Britain seeks new trade era with Africa: Nigeria must embrace it

For two days last week, on March 9 and 10, trade ministers from Commonwealth countries met in London to explore ways of boosting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment. It was the first time that the Commonwealth, which is not a trading bloc, but a loose organisation of 52 predominantly former British colonies, would meet to develop a trade agenda. But that overarching goal apart, the meeting also took place against the backdrop of Britain’s epochal decision to leave the European Union. Since the Brexit vote last year, Britain’s future trade relations, not only with the EU, but the rest of the world, have dominated policy discussions. Obviously, Britain wants a new comprehensive trade arrangement with the EU, but also seeks a wide-reaching free trade agreement with the US. However, also critical in these discussions is the question of how Brexit would affect trade relations between Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth. It is a question that Britain and other Commonwealth countries are asking, but so are business people, development agencies and academics. Last month, for instance, the Commonwealth Secretariat invited me to take part in an event, tagged “Technical Consultation of Independent Experts”, to discuss the implications of Brexit for the Commonwealth and developing countries. The seminar was organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Economic and Social Research Council and an organisation called Governance and Economic Integration through Free Trade Agreements (GIFTA). But why is the Brexit-Commonwealth issue a major talking point in government circles and within the trade and epistemic communities? Well, in my view, it is driven both by nostalgia about a lost past and hope that it can be regained!

Source: Business Day Online