As the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will be held in London in April 2018, approaches, the Commonwealth is considering its position in the future and continued relevance
As the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will be held in London in April 2018, approaches, the Commonwealth is considering its position in the future and continued relevance.
Cooperation and closer business and trade ties are two of CHOGM’s key points of discussion; India has crucially indicated its interest in participating for the first time in years, with the Commerce Minister suggesting India could take on a key leadership role in its renewal.
Intra-Commonwealth trade is projected to increase to US$1 trillion in 2020, a substantial rise from $525 billion in 2015, and the UK in particular is looking to capitalise on this potential as the Brexit process advances.
In an interview with BusinessLine, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), Lord Marland of Odstock, discussed how CHOGM and the preceding Commonwealth Business Forum will impact the network.
Lord Marland pointed to the engagement of India’s Prime Minister Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (a former Deputy Chair of the Commonwealth Business Council), as well as the more recent outward-looking attitude from Canada, as positive points towards innovation within the Commonwealth network.
Growing interest from such influential nations would serve to promote political, business and trade ties within the group, said the CWEIC Chairman.
India’s cooperation and input, for example, would see greater entrepreneurial opportunities open up within the Commonwealth, and have a transformative impact on both member nations and in India, in particular on the skills set of its population.
On Brexit, Lord Marland stated that it should not affect intra-Commonwealth trade negatively, despite the obvious distraction for the UK government.
A formal Commonwealth trade agreement may be difficult to implement during post-Brexit arrangements, he added, but it could be possible between a group of countries sharing similar views on business practices, the rule of law, free trade and the like.
When asked about the forthcoming Business Forum, Lord Marland said it provided the opportunity to bring together eminent business figures in discussions on common business practices, free trade and the rule of law, and that sectors such as tech can benefit from learning from other countries.
The Chairman also urged greater cooperation between Commonwealth countries in order to be able to compete with Chinese business, trade and investment companies.
A strong alliance needed to be formed, he argued, to come up with the building blocks necessary for implementing a Commonwealth trade agreement.
Political disconnectivity is on the rise globally, but the world is also seeing unprecedented connectivity on a human and business level, which governments should be learning to work with and harness, according to the CWEIC Chair.
He negated the idea that tougher immigration policies would form a barrier for businesses doing trade in other countries, though the long term implications of the migration issue should be considered from a business point of view.
“I think like any club, unless people commit to using the facilities and commit to making an effort towards it, nothing happens,” said Lord Marland.
“There is so much talent in these countries — they are a third of the world’s population.
“If we can harness it we can become quite a significant force.”
Read More: Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, reflects on her experience as a Commonwealth leader, and discusses the future role of the Commonwealth on the global stage, in particular fostering democratic values and countering radicalisation