At the end of last month the UK signed a trade continuity agreement with countries from Eastern and Southern Africa. The countries concerned are the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe. These countries had, in 2009, signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). At that time, the UK had been a member of the EU, but it is currently in the process of leaving the bloc.
The trade continuity agreement replicates, as far as possible, the effects of the EPA and forms part of Britain’s preparations to leave the EU, popularly called Brexit. The new agreement will ensure that trade between the UK and the African countries concerned will not be disrupted by Brexit. It will permit the African countries to continue tariff-free exports to the UK, while seeing them phase out their tariffs on most British exports, over a number of years.
Trade between Britain and the five African countries was worth £1.5-billion in 2017. Using current trade flows as a base, the new agreement could provide savings of £30-million in tariffs for fish and meat exporters in the five African countries, in comparison to the situation that would have eventuated if the agreement had not been signed. The savings for clothing manufacturers in the five countries could be more than £10-million a year and for sugar exporters, some £8-million. As for the UK, British consumers will continue to benefit from wider choices and lower prices.
“The continuity agreement … marks our commitment to help developing countries increase trade and boost economies both across Africa and the UK,” affirmed British Trade Minister George Hollingbery, who signed the agreement on behalf of the UK. “The agreement will allow businesses in Eastern and Southern Africa to continue trading with the UK without any tariffs and lays the foundations for our ambitious trade for development agenda. Africa’s long-term success matters to the UK which is why we are investing in, and partnering with, African nations for our mutual benefit.”
The trade continuity agreement between the UK and the five African countries will come into effect either in January 2021, when the expected Brexit implementation period ends, or on March 29 this year, if no withdrawal agreement is reached between the UK and EU – popularly known as No Deal. London regards the trade continuity agreement as forming part of its support to developing countries through encouraging trade, which will grow economies, increase employment, increase incomes, reduce poverty and eventually end dependence on foreign aid.