Uganda’s Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde has assured the United Kingdom (UK) of continued trade relations despite the former’s decision to exit the European Union.
Kyambadde made the remarks during the Trade and Sustainable Development Symposium organised by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) on the sidelines of the 11th WTO Ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The symposium organized under the theme ‘Getting the future Africa-UK trade partnership right’ was premised on the significant implications for Britain’s trade policy relationship with Africa following UK’s decision to exit the European Union. The symposium discussed the opportunities and challenges Brexit presents for African countries.
On March 29, 2017, the UK triggered Article 50 of Lisbon Treaty which formally started its process of exiting the EU, and the country is currently on the move to establish the foundations of a strong and mutually beneficial long-term relationship that will provide continuity in the trade relationship between her and Africa.
Minister Kyambadde said that Uganda has a long relationship with the UK and would like to explore the huge untapped trade potential between the two countries. She said the bilateral trade between Uganda and UK demonstrates that there is a huge potential for Africa to increase its trade with the UK.
Uganda’s exports to the UK have tremendously dwindled from USD 58 million in 2012 to US$ 16.5 million in 2016 while the imports have also reduced from USD 127 million in 2012 to US$ 74.4 million in 2016.
Minister Kyambadde attributed the decline in trade to the shift of trade to the Middle East and Asia, the shift in domestic policies from the export of raw commodities to value addition that the UK market has not yet fully adjusted to, increasing oil prices after the Arab spring and the uncertainty about the Brexit processes.
Kyambadde said that the new policy after Brexit should not roll back the gains African countries like Uganda already had with UK while it was in EU and should have commercially meaningful duty free, quota free market access, at least for all Least Developed Countries.
She added that the policy should include all products of export interest to African countries.
“The policy should be demand driven rather than supply driven and the list of the products to enjoy preference in whatever scheme UK comes up with should come from us”, explained Kyambadde.
She advised that the Africa- UK trade relationship after Brexit should encourage and support industrialisation and value addition. It must move Africa away from donation of value when our products are exported raw with little or no value addition. She added that the scheme should ensure that rules of origin and simple and not unnecessarily stringent.
“The future Africa trade relations should include a strong commitment to remove Non Tariff Barriers (NTBS) that deny African countries the opportunity to benefit from preferential market access opportunities”, said Kyambadde.
On the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) that EAC is negotiating with the EU, Kyambadde suggested that the two parties consider a negotiated trade arrangement that goes beyond the few challenges we had with EPAs. She said despite the Brexit, Uganda is still committed to sign the EPAs but is still negotiating with other member States so that EAC signs as a bloc.