UK-Africa trade will be even bet­ter af­ter Brexit

CityPress - - Business - Mark Price busi­ness@city­

Through­out my visit to South Africa and Namibia last month, I was struck by the bonds that link the UK and the south­ern African re­gion.

Our re­la­tion­ship is un­der­pinned by vis­its to each other’s coun­tries ev­ery year and our shared cul­tural and in­sti­tu­tional frame­works.

Over nearly two decades dur­ing my ca­reer at Bri­tish su­per­mar­ket chain Waitrose, I took regular trips to South Africa, vis­it­ing sup­pli­ers who ex­ported ex­cel­lent food and wine.

I was there to sup­port the work of the Waitrose Foun­da­tion, a scheme which sees a per­cent­age of prof­its rein­vested di­rectly back into farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties in the Western Cape. Not aid, but trade at its most free and fair. It was through vis­it­ing com­mu­ni­ties, such as those in the Citrus­dal val­ley, that I saw how trade can em­power peo­ple to trans­form their lives. Across South Africa, more than 50 000 farm work­ers and their fam­i­lies ben­e­fited from the foun­da­tion and its part­ners. This is why I be­lieve that busi­ness is a force for good.

Bri­tish busi­ness has a long-held com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing south­ern Africa’s eco­nomic growth and devel­op­ment.

My pur­pose in vis­it­ing the re­gion was to make this mes­sage clear: the UK’s with­drawal from the EU does not sig­nify a with­drawal from the world, but an in­creased open­ness – and that long-held com­mit­ment re­mains stead­fast.

I am com­mit­ted to strength­en­ing the trad­ing ties be­tween the UK and South­ern Africa. South Africa is al­ready the UK’s largest trad­ing part­ner in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, with bi­lat­eral trade reach­ing nearly £10 bil­lion (R173 bil­lion). Ex­ports from both coun­tries are in­creas­ing year on year. The UK is also one of the largest in­vestors in South Africa.

The fu­ture holds huge op­por­tu­ni­ties. Bri­tain’s in­fra­struc­ture ca­pa­bil­ity is on hand as South Africa ex­pands the im­pres­sive Gau­train and im­proves the cur­rent fleet of its na­tional air­line.

We should also pool our ex­per­tise, work­ing to­gether on in­fra­struc­ture projects and busi­ness deals across the African con­ti­nent.

Trade is now back at the heart of the UK govern­ment’s pol­icy agenda, and for the first time in more than 30 years, the UK has a ded­i­cated de­part­ment for in­ter­na­tional trade.

It is the job of my de­part­ment to help build a global Bri­tain – the most pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate of open, free and fair trade in the world. We will strengthen and re­vive trad­ing ar­range­ments with some of the world’s most dy­namic economies. Post Brexit, we will be able to take ad­van­tage of the 90% of global growth that is pro­jected to oc­cur be­yond the bor­ders of Europe – with a key fo­cus on Africa.

Our pri­or­ity is to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity and avoid any dis­rup­tion to trade with our African part­ners. That’s why, at the G20 sum­mit, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May an­nounced a new part­ner­ship with Africa, fo­cused on sup­port­ing trade, in­vest­ment and growth.

It is also why Sec­re­taries of State Liam Fox and Priti Pa­tel have com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing ex­ist­ing duty-free and quota-free trade ac­cess to UK mar­kets for Least De­vel­oped Coun­tries, and why I agreed with my south­ern African coun­ter­parts to en­sure that there is no dis­rup­tion to our trad­ing re­la­tion­ship un­der the EU-South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (EPA) as the UK leaves the EU.

That was the key pur­pose of my visit to south­ern Africa – meet­ing with trade min­is­ters and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Botswana, Le­sotho, Mozam­bique, Namibia, South Africa and Swazi­land to dis­cuss how we can work to­gether on an ar­range­ment that repli­cates the ef­fects of the EPA once the UK has left the EU.

As a devel­op­ment-fo­cused trade agree­ment, the EPA pro­vides a high de­gree of mar­ket ac­cess. We will con­tinue to sup­port African economies by of­fer­ing mar­ket ac­cess for their goods, while help­ing part­ners to take ad­van­tage of that ac­cess through Aid for Trade sup­port.

A swift and straight­for­ward repli­ca­tion of the cur­rent trad­ing ar­range­ment should pro­vide cer­tainty to traders and busi­nesses small and large, all across the re­gion. This is not sim­ply about avoid­ing any dis­rup­tion to the sta­tus quo, but about se­cur­ing a foun­da­tion which en­ables us to work to­gether to strengthen our trad­ing re­la­tion­ship. We are count­ing on your sup­port through­out.

Un­der­pin­ning all of this is our recog­ni­tion that the UK’s re­la­tion­ship with our African part­ners rep­re­sents an ex­cit­ing trad­ing op­por­tu­nity into the fu­ture. Our com­mon val­ues, shared his­tory and com­mer­cial con­fi­dence in each other’s economies mean we have a strong base from which to build. Price is min­is­ter of state for trade pol­icy in

the UK de­part­ment for in­ter­na­tional trade

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