The Commonwealth, headed by Queen Elizabeth, is not a formal trading bloc with a free-trade agreement. But the network includes about a third of the world’s population and some of its fastest-growing economies.
The new system would see Britain replace the European Union’s Generalised System of Preferences, which applies import duties at reduced rates, with what will be known as the Developing Countries Trading Scheme. “It is an under-appreciated fact that our unique union of nations is buzzing with economic activity,” Johnson will say.
Earlier this year, Britain struck a 120 million pound ($148 million) deal with Rwanda to deport asylum seekers to the East African country but the first such flight was halted last week by the European Court of Human Rights. The scheme has been widely criticised as inhumane.
“The new initiatives we are launching today will ensure the UK is at the forefront of seizing opportunities, driving shared growth and prosperity for the benefit of all of our people.”
Johnson wants to increase trade with the Commonwealth, a network of 54 nations that are primarily former British colonies, a year and a half after the United Kingdom exited the EU.
A day before the heads of Commonwealth governments meeting begins in Kigali on Friday, Johnson will say he wants to start a new trade system to reduce costs and simplify rules for 65 developing countries, including many in the Commonwealth. This will reduce tariffs on foods, clothes and other items by 750 million pounds a year, he will say.
Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, who is representing his mother at the Commonwealth summit, privately described the plan as “appalling”, according to newspaper reports.