Hope for Commonwealth trade bloc to rival EU as GDP set to surpass Europe’s

Liz Truss submits UK's application to join the CPTPP

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Speaking to the Sunday Express in the aftermath of the Queen leading celebrations of Commonwealth Day last week, Ms Truss has emphasised that the organisation is now a key part of her drive to agree trade deals around the world. She said: “The Commonwealth is home to some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Deeper trade ties with our Commonwealth friends and allies will help deliver jobs and prosperity across all parts of the country and help us build back better from this awful pandemic. “Negotiations are already under way with Australia and New Zealand, and we will start talks on a more advanced deal with Canada later this year.”

Thanks to the work of Ms Truss and her department Britain already has 29 trade deals with Commonwealth member states in place.

On top of the plans for comprehensive agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Canada, she has also opened talks with India.

Last week Ms Truss announced a deal with another Commonwealth country Kenya as well as Cameroon.

While the Government is not yet currently pushing for the Commonwealth to become a formal trade body, Ms Truss’ remarks will give hope to the growing number of voices in Britain and abroad who want it to develop from an organisation of friendship to an economic one.

Support for the Commonwealth to become a trade bloc without free movement of people as a major international benefit of Brexit has already been voiced by leading politicians from Commonwealth states.

In 2018 former Nigerian vice president Atiku Akabakar wrote in the Sunday Express that Africa longs for Brexit as a platform for an eventual Commonwealth wide trade deal, arguing that countries such as his needed trade more than aid but had been locked out by the EU.

He wrote: “My sincere belief is that Brexit can be a great force for good. It could blow down barriers which have prevented Nigeria and other countries from grasping their potential.

“Let us face facts: Britain’s membership of the EU should compliment its older Commonwealth relationships. It should not have been an either/or situation.”

He also argued that the Commonwealth’s £10 trillion GDP showed that it will soon pass the EU’s £11 trillion with faster economic growth.

Conservative MPs have also backed attempts to turn the Commonwealth into a trade organisation.

Former minister Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Common Sense group, said: “What we need is a new reworking of Joseph Chamberlain’s old imperial trade preference which he envisaged for the countries which made up the Empire.

“We need a Commonwealth version of that which reflects our historic ties and friendships with countries around the world.”

Currently the top priority for the UK is to join the Trans Pacific Partnership trade bloc which includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Ms Truss also revealed this week in the Daily Express that work on a major US trade deal is making rapid progress with the Biden administration despite claims by Remainers that Britain would be “at the back of the queue.”

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