Boris Johnson looks to Commonwealth for trade deal opportunities

British prime minister believes former countries offer a 'unique opportunity' for trade

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to air force members at RAF Brize Norton airbase, west of London, after returning from Ukraine on Saturday. AFP
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Now that Britain has left the EU, its membership of the Commonwealth provides a “unique opportunity” to expand its trade with “vast and growing” markets, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Mr Johnson said economic links with fellow member states would create jobs at home and ease the pressures on the cost of living, as he prepared to attend the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Rwanda this week.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said the bloc’s gross domestic product of $13.1 trillion (£10.7tn) has risen by a quarter since 2017.

Over the next five years it is forecast to increase by another 50 per cent to $19.5tn.

Mr Johnson said the countries were joined by an “invisible thread” of shared values, history and institutions, as well as the English language, creating a “Commonwealth advantage” when it came to trade.

“It is an amazing fact that those invisible threads – particularly a common language and familiar legal and administrative systems – are of immense practical value for trade,” he wrote.

“Today the ‘Commonwealth advantage’ knocks 21 per cent off the cost of trade between members.

"The same applies to investment, which is 27 per cent higher between Commonwealth nations than for other country pairs.

“All of this creates a unique opportunity for Britain whereby the Commonwealth, and only the Commonwealth, combines vast and rapidly growing markets with a real and quantified trading advantage.

“That is why we are mobilising the UK’s regained sovereignty to sign free trade or economic partnership agreements with as many Commonwealth countries as possible.”

Mr Johnson said that so far the UK had completed agreements with 33 Commonwealth members, including Australia and New Zealand, and was aiming for India, the biggest of them all, by Diwali in October.

“You only have to look at the sheer scale of economic expansion in many of the club’s biggest members to see why the Commonwealth trade advantage is going to become ever more important for British jobs and livelihoods,” he said.

“Here are the growing markets for British exports that will create jobs at home and, at the same time, ease the pressure on the cost of living.”

Updated: June 20, 2022, 12:19 AM