Vidya Ram

Commonwealth ministers commit to boosting trade

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 13, 2018

Commonwealth Secretary Rita A Teaotia

India to host SME summit in May

A two-day Commonwealth trade summit concluded on Friday, as ministers from across the bloc committed to boosting intra-Commonwealth trade, in the face of the growing clamour for protectionism globally.

India announced a trade summit amongst Commonwealth SMEs in May this year. The meeting of SMEs (small and medium enterprises) from across the Commonwealth, an initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the Ministry of Commerce, will take place in New Delhi, Commonwealth Secretary Rita A Teaotia told delegates at the trade ministers’ meeting.

The two-day meeting brought businesses and politicians from around 35 Commonwealth member-states together and is the first meeting of trade ministers from across the region in the past 12 years.

“This was an incredibly important moment for us with all regions across the Commonwealth being represented. There is huge agreement across the board between national states about what we need to do to advance economies…but also what we need to do to advance trade, which is globally at its lowest level since the Second World War,” said Baroness Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth. “There is a huge opportunity because we represent about 2.4 billion people.”

One of the ideas being considered is that of a Commonwealth ambassador, who would be commissioned to identify tangible ways in which intra-Commonwealth trade could be promoted, as part of efforts to raise it to around $1 trillion.

The role would lie within the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, headed by Lord Marland, who also hopes that a “Commonwealth Accord” is achievable: a standard of rules, based on the shared experiences, rules and regulations in member-states, that could be subscribed to, which, he said, would give greater certainty and help SMEs looking to enter new markets in particular.

The trade meeting has gained increased significance, as Britain looks to increase its trading links beyond the EU, while India has also given the Commonwealth renewed focus.

“India has been incredibly supportive, in particular, of our trade facility and has committed a considerable amount of resource to that trade-facilitation process concentrated on SMEs,” Baroness Scotland said following the discussions.

Teaotia also spoke of India’s focus on trade facilitation in services, which aims to ease the short-term movement of professionals and skilled workers, and efforts to help some less developed countries link into its own value chains.

Her visit will be followed by that of MJ Akbar who will be attending the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting next week, also in London.

Next year, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is due to take place in London, where trade is also expected to have renewed focus. “From today till the CHOGM summit, the Commonwealth will be an important part of our agenda,” said Deputy High Commissioner Dinesh Patnaik on Thursday.

Published on March 10, 2017

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