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Theresa May announces first post-Brexit trade pact with six African countries

Theresa May announces first post-Brexit trade pact with six African countries
3 min read

Britain has agreed its first post-Brexit trade agreement with six African countries, Theresa May has announced during her three-day visit to the continent.

The Prime Minister revealed that countries within the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) have agreed to “roll over” a pact that currently exists with the European Union.

The agreement will see member states Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland continue the current agreement, while Mozambique will also be involved.

In a speech in Cape Town this morning, the PM also said Britain would invest an additional £4bn in African economies, with a further £4bn of private sector financing.

Speaking on her first visit to South Africa ahead of a bilateral meeting with president Cyril Ramaphosa, Mrs May said the need to create tens of thousands of jobs every day to cope with a rapidly growing population on the continent was “in the world’s interest”.

She said failure to tackle problems such as extremism and instability, migration flows and environmental issues would otherwise “swiftly reach every corner of our networked, connected world” and see a “loss of faith in free markets and democracy”.

Mrs May said she wanted a “new partnership between the UK and our friends in Africa, one built around our shared prosperity and shared security”.

“That’s why I’m delighted that we will today confirm plans to carry over the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique once the EU’s deal no longer applies to the UK,” she said.

"As a Prime Minister who believes both in free markets and in nations and businesses acting in line with well-established rules and principles of conduct, I want to demonstrate to young Africans that their brightest future lies in a free and thriving private sector.

"One driven and underpinned by transparency, high standards, the rule of law and fairness. Only in such circumstances can innovation truly be rewarded, the potential of individuals unleashed, and societies provided with the opportunities they want, need and deserve."

Mrs May also reiterated the UK’s commitment to paying 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, adding: “I want to be clear: foreign aid works.”

Elsewhere, the Prime Minister said she was "unashamed" about British aid being used in the interests of the UK as well as poverty-stricken nations.

She said: “The UK’s role in international development is something of which I am immensely proud, as I believe the nation as a whole should be.

“We will remain a global champion for aid spending, humanitarian relief and international development...

“But I am also unashamed about the need to ensure that our aid programme works for the UK.

“So today I am committing that our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest.

“This will ensure that our investment in aid benefits us all, and is fully aligned with our wider national security priorities.”

But Labour accused Mrs May of using Britain's aid budget to help sign post-Brexit trade deals.

Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor said: "The Prime Minister’s vision of using the country’s aid money to expand African markets for the private sector will do nothing to address the underlying causes of poverty or inequality.

"If the Prime Minister is genuine about tackling poverty in Africa then she needs to think less about how privatisation can bolster the profits of the few, and pay more attention to tackling deep rooted inequalities that prevent people from living a dignified life."

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