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First ever meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers to discuss ways of increasing Commonwealth’s combined exports of goods and services valued at around £2.7 trillion

9th March 2017, London

A historic meeting bringing together Trade Ministers from across the Commonwealth will be held in London, hosted by Lord Marland of Odstock, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. The main aim of the meeting is to explore ways of maximising the Commonwealth Factor – which makes it on average 19% cheaper to do business between Commonwealth countries.

Convened by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), the first ever Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting will gather 35 Commonwealth Trade Ministers, including representatives from Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago, along with over 60 business leaders from a variety of sectors, including De La Rue, Standard Chartered, Santander, Jumia, Prudential, Burberry and Fonterra.

At present, the 52 Commonwealth members’ combined exports of goods and services are valued at around US$3.4 trillion (£2.7 trillion), about 15 per cent of the world’s total exports. Intra-Commonwealth trade was estimated to stand at US$592 billion (£477 billion) in 2013.

Trade Ministers will also be urged to define an “Agenda for Growth” to promote trade, investment and job creation in member countries by maximising opportunities offered by the Commonwealth network:

  • • The ‘Commonwealth Factor’ of shared language, legal systems, regulatory frameworks and cultural values makes it on average 19 per cent cheaper to do business between member states
    • The Commonwealth is home to 2.3 billion citizens, 60 per cent of which are under the age of 30
    • Between 2013 and 2015, Commonwealth countries grew at a combined rate if 4.1 per cent of GDP, compared to 1.8 per cent in the EU and 2.6 per cent in the United States

The two-day Meeting will bring Ministers and private sector leaders together to discuss the future of trade and the role the Commonwealth can play. Six roundtable discussions will explore the following pillars:

Financial Services – with pre-existing legal similarities, the Commonwealth has a head start in aligning regulatory approaches to provide maximum value for cross border financial services.

Ease of Doing Business – the Commonwealth Secretariat has shown that if Commonwealth countries could all achieve the same level of trade facilitation efficiency as Singapore or the United Kingdom, then combined GDP gains would be US$502 billion.

Technology and Innovation – this session will focus on supporting start-up entrepreneurs, the importance of investment in science and R&D and the enormous potential for a greater focus on Open Data across the Commonwealth.

Business and Sustainability – a discussion around the opportunities presented by the green economy, the role green finance can play in unlocking these opportunities and the importance of economic empowerment for all sections of society.

Creating an Export Economy – certain Commonwealth countries have the potential to become regional hubs or act as gateways to help companies enter new regions, if they develop world class trade infrastructure. The Commonwealth should make it a priority to create a strong export culture and encourage SME’s to take advantage of the Commonwealth Factor

Attracting Investment – studies have shown that Commonwealth members generate 10 per cent more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between them than the average. Strengthening the rule of law and governance should also be key objectives in developing strong investment promotion strategies.

Regarding the significance of the Meeting, Lord Marland, Chairman of CWEIC, said “The Executive Order to pull the USA out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), alongside the UK’s decision to exit the EU, mean that a trading system group is perhaps more important now than ever before. The level of attendance, both from Ministers and private sector is a testament to the enduring and enabling power of the Commonwealth and will help to focus the agenda in the lead-up to a UK-hosted Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Spring 2018 on our shared objectives of increasing growth, creating jobs and ensuring that trade remains as free and fair as possible. The Commonwealth holds a unique position in global trade and the development of an Accord that Commonwealth countries could agree to trade under, would be a significant achievement.”

The Hon Chris Cardona, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, representing the Government of Malta, the current Chair in Office of the Commonwealth said “This meeting builds on the dialogue begun at CHOGM and the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) held in Malta in November 2015. This first ever meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers demonstrates a commitment by all those here today to the key issues that all members of the Commonwealth face. The Commonwealth is a tremendous forum for the sharing of best practice and generating new ideas and partnerships.”

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will co-host the closed door Ministerial Meeting on the 10th March at Marlborough House said “This Commonwealth gathering takes place at a challenging time for world trade. Upheavals currently taking place in the global trade landscape make it more important than ever to look at how we can increase trade by making more of the immense potential and distinctive dynamic arising from our Commonwealth advantage of similar systems of governance, administration and law. Over these two days we are bringing together the ministers and officials responsible for trade in Commonwealth countries, and representatives of business in every continent and ocean, in order to build on this advantage to accelerate development, prosperity, and employment opportunities, by boosting intra-Commonwealth trade.”

CWEIC would like to thank the Commonwealth Secretariat, the City of London, De la Rue, the Government of Malta and the UK Government, for supporting this important event.