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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for a photo with African leaders in London. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, front center, poses for a photo with African leaders at the U.K.-Africa Investment Summit in London, Jan. 20, 2020 (pool photo by Ben Stansall of AFP via AP Images).

How Post-Brexit Britain Can Promote Better Trade and Development in Africa

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020

The United Kingdom may have officially left the European Union, but the terms of its exit are still being worked out, including what British trade policy will look like post-Brexit. During the current transition, which lasts until at least the end of the year, the U.K. will continue trading under EU rules while negotiating new arrangements with Brussels. Once that is done, the British government will be free to negotiate new trade terms with the rest of the world. While a potential free trade deal with the U.S. gets all the attention, development advocates are watching to see how the U.K. adapts the existing preferential trade arrangements it had made as part of the EU with poor and developing countries, in Africa in particular.

The EU has a robust trade preference program, called Everything But Arms, that provides duty-free, quota-free market access for the world’s poorest countries, and the U.K. has already said that it will replicate it. But British policymakers have a chance to improve on the EU’s contorted and at times counterproductive approach to trade and development policy in Africa. In a recent speech celebrating Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated the British government’s support for African leaders’ ambition “to turn that great family of nations into a free trade zone.” Though Brussels also backs the aim of a continent-wide African free trade zone, it has negotiated a hodge-podge of bilateral and regional trade agreements that actually make realizing that goal more complicated. ...

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