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Atiku attacks EU on free trade in British newspaper op-ed – Why it matters

Politics

Atiku attacks EU on free trade in British newspaper op-ed – Why it matters

Former Vice President and PDP Presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, has railed against EU’s protectionist tarrifs which he described as detrimental to Nigeria and Africa.

In an op-ed for London based Express newspaper, Atiku urged the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, ahead of her visit to Nigeria, to get ambitious and explore a Commonwealth Free Trade Agreement. He described Brexit as an opportunity for the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth partners.

Atiku’s Arguments

That the EU is deliberately curbing the growth of developing nations:

Atiku accused the EU of running a “protection racket” deliberately designed to curb the growth of the developing world.

“Rice, maize and other cereals face tariffs of more than 50 per cent. This is an EU protection racket which drives up prices in Britain and deliberately holds back developing nations. The poorest in my country and yours pay the highest price for this,” the former VP said.

To further his argument, Atiku cited an example of the EU’s sugarcane tariff. He pointed out that the tariffs were not only prohibitive but also punitive as the EU imposes higher tariffs when value is added to the crop.

“Sugar cane from Nigeria faces a 115.4 per cent tariff, while if we refine it for human consumption it becomes 375.6 per cent. Impossible to trade.”

Proposals for Britain

Commonwealth Free Trade Agreement: Atiku says that the Commonwealth bloc has a GDP of about £10trillion, about £1trillion pound behind the EU’s GDP and he expects the bloc to surpass it.

(Side Note: According to Trading Economics, Commonwealth GDP is projected to reach $14trillion by 2020 while EU is projected to reach $18.7trillion by 2020).

Atiku makes the case for the commonwealth to have a free trade agreement. He cited the exploratory efforts at an FTA between the UK and Australia, New Zealand to be encompassing.

He argues like the Brexiteers against a globalist EU that runs the affairs of other countries from Brussels. He said that a new Commonwealth trading bloc will counter this.

“It is time to release the African lion economies such as Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. We can be the catalyst for a worldwide Commonwealth trade deal with none of disadvantages of the EU’s attempt to run Britain from Brussels.”

One Last Thing: Atiku’s proposal is not particularly ingenious or new. The British Prime Minister herself has explored the possibility of boosting trading ties with the commonwealth bloc. Only 9 percent of UK trade is conducted with the commonwealth compared to 44 percent from the EU.

While Brexiteers romanticise the idea of a Commonwealth trading bloc, the data indicates that it does not amount to a substitute to the EU.

Other challenges include Geography, China in Africa and the turbulent history of UK trade relations with commonwealth nations like India.

Go deeper: Is the Commonwealth a plausible substitute for the EU?

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