Robin Walker MP, a member of our Advisory Board and the Secretary of Parliament's Commonwealth All-Party Group, has been quizzing the UK government on trade with the Commonwealth.
In the first of a series of questions, he asked what the UK was doing to promote UK-Commonwealth trade, EU-Commonwealth trade, and intra-Commonwealth trade. The Minister responded as follows:
"The European Commission leads on trade negotiations on behalf of the EU and its member states. The UK is a strong advocate of the EU’s ambitious trade agenda and has supported the pursuit of comprehensive trade agreements with several Commonwealth countries. Negotiations on free trade agreements with Canada and Singapore are close to finalisation, we are the EU’s strongest champion of a trade agreement with India, and a joint declaration between EU leaders and the Prime Minister of New Zealand last month paves the way to potential trade negotiations between the EU and New Zealand starting under the next European Commission."
As we have argued before, whether in or out of the EU, the UK needs to be doing all it can to build these links and relationships. In our submission to the IEA's Brexit Prize we put forward an extensive plan of how the UK could do so if it were to leave but for as long as it remains a member, we must keep encouraging these deals and agreements to maximise Commonwealth trade.
Robin also asked about UK Trade and Investment's (UKTI) activities in Commonwealth Markets and was told that the "UKTI has a presence in 23 Commonwealth markets, accounting for approximately 21% of UKTI overseas headcount."
Finally, he asked for greater detail about the UK's trade with Commonwealth countries (beyond the public data that is available for 10 members) but this information was not provided.