Vidya Ram

Business travel card scheme, a la APEC’s, mooted for Commonwealth states

VIDYA RAM London | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on March 07, 2017

Lord Marland, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council

Will boost investment; Commonwealth ministers meet tomorrow

Commonwealth nations could consider a scheme similar to the Business Travel Card scheme, used across the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, as a means of promoting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment, the chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council said. His comments come ahead of the inaugural Meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers in London on March 9-10, convened by the CWEIC, and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Lord Marland, the chair of the body that represents private sector businesses within the Commonwealth, and a former UK trade envoy said that the issue of immigration policy between Commonwealth countries was one for ministers to discuss, but the travel card scheme could be one of the ideas looked at. “I think there is certainly a case for allowing entrepreneurs and skilled professionals greater freedom to work across the Commonwealth,” he said in an email interview with this paper. Under the APEC scheme, which includes 19 fully participating countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and Singapore, business travellers are able to apply for five-year-long, short-term, multiple-entry permits to other member states, freeing them from the need to apply for visas every time they travel.

The inaugural trade ministers meeting was planned before last June’s Brexit referendum, but is being seen as particularly relevant in Britain, which is seeking new alliances outside the union. While Prime Minister Theresa May visited India last year, her government has signaled its eagerness to boost ties with other Commonwealth countries.

“This meeting is not a response to Brexit but is an opportunity for all 52 Members of the Commonwealth to explore the opportunities for trade and prosperity which exist within the Commonwealth and develop their trading relationships with one another,” said Lord Marland. He added that Brexit provided an opportunity for the U.K to play a bigger role in developing trade relationships between Commonwealth countries.

“The lack of formal mechanisms to promote trade and investment has been a challenge but the fundamentals and “Commonwealth Factor” remain strong and the trade ministers meeting is a positive step towards unlocking the potential”.

He said that the meeting would provide a platform for countries to strengthen the dialogue with each other and ensure private sector representatives were brought into the fold. “The Trade Ministers Meeting will provide a platform for this and help Ministers and business leaders develop an understanding of the diverse nature of Commonwealth economies.”

Lord Marland said that another focus area would be on the ease of doing business and the implementation of the WTO facilitation agreement, which came into force on February 22. “There is lots countries can do to improve the business environment before we discuss potential trade deals.”

“A united Commonwealth which takes advantage of our historic ties can be extremely beneficial. There’s so much cross fertilisation – look at the education system, so many Commonwealth decision makers have attended British universities. It’s so much easier to do business in the same language, and with common rules underpinned by the same legal system.”

Published on March 07, 2017
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