Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will reportedly become Britain’s new joint President of the Board of Trade. Mr Abbott, a vocal supporter of Brexit, who led Australia from 2013 to 2015, will be tasked with striking trade deals for the UK around the world. He will reportedly hold the role jointly with UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss.
The Board of Trade has traditionally been made up of British politicians and business executives.
Its mission is to “champion exports and inward and outward investment to deliver economic growth and prosperity”.
His appointment is yet to be made official but a Downing Street source told “we are delighted to have him”.
Moreover, unearthed reports suggest what his priorities might be once he takes on the role.
In 2017, Mr Abbott endorsed the plan of a UK-based lobby group, which was advocating for a Commonwealth trading bloc.
The Free Enterprise Group (FEG) made its case in its “Reconnecting with the Commonwealth” report, arguing for closer trading ties and liberalised labour markets among the former British dominions, as the post-Brexit trading plan for the UK.
In the FEG’s report foreword, Mr Abbott said “Brexit meant that Britain was back”.
He wrote: “Brexit is not a vote against free trade because the EU has acted as a protectionist bloc against trade with outsiders.
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“In the long run, free trade is in everyone’s interests. In the shorter run, of course, freer trade might mean that rich people in poor countries benefit more than poor people in rich ones.
“The best way to ensure that free trade has few losers, even in the short term, is to begin with much freer trade between like minded countries with comparable standards of living.
“Free trade agreements with economically advanced Commonwealth countries are the obvious place for Britain to start.”
The rest of the FEG report, co-written by Conservative MP James Cleverly, whose mother was from Sierra Leone, a Commonwealth nation, recommended replacing the EU single market with a Commonwealth trading bloc to be built in staggered sequence.
The group set out that the UK should look to the Commonwealth’s open economies of Australia, Canada, Singapore, and New Zealand to secure preferential trade arrangements.
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The following steps of this strategy would target trade agreements with India, and eventually with the less developed African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.
As a last step, the UK would join the multilateral Trade in Service Agreement (TiSA), which is being controversially negotiated by the most advanced service economies, including Australia, the EU and US.
In connection to the liberalisation of trade in goods and services, the FEG report also proposed easier people movement between Commonwealth nations through the relaxation of Tier 2 visas for skilled workers, in particular for workers from India.
The report went as far as to promote free labour mobility between the UK and the most developed Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson famously launched this idea well before the Brexit referendum.