Britain should prioritise free trade agreements with key Commonwealth nations like India following Brexit, says a new report released on Tuesday (10).
The report by the UK’s Free Enterprise Group suggests a five-step plan for the UK as it gets ready to leave the EU, which begins with striking pacts with the Commonwealth’s open economies of Australia, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand to secure Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in time for Brexit.
As a second step, the UK should pursue an FTA with India.
“The UK’s largest Commonwealth export destination India is a prize worth pursuing. Significant time should be invested by the UK into a trade-only deal. However, this will take time. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are all in the process of FTAs with India that have already taken five to six years,” the report notes.
‘Reconnecting with the Commonwealth: The UK’s free trade opportunities’ co-authored by Conservative party MP James Cleverly and Tim Hewish, executive director of Commonwealth Exchange, highlights the importance of shared language, common law tradition, diaspora networks, and historic cultural links with countries like India as a key to forming new ties following Britain’s exit from the 28-member economic bloc.
“The best way to ensure that free trade has few losers, even in the short term, is to begin with much freer trade between likeminded countries with comparable standards of living. Free trade agreements with economically advanced Commonwealth countries are the obvious place for Britain to start,” says former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott in his foreword to the report.
“The government must a publish a plan to utilise the ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ and build our trade links with the Commonwealth. A market of 2.3 billion people and some of the fastest growing economies in the world is too big an opportunity to ignore,” adds Cleverly.
The report says the UK is the largest EU goods export destination for numerous Commonwealth countries such as India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. It is also the second largest for Bangladesh, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea, providing a strong motive for Commonwealth countries to form trade deals with the UK.