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Secretary-General highlights challenges posed by trade fragmentation

24 July 2017

Trade governance structures must be “fit for purpose” to address the changing global landscape and benefit Commonwealth member countries, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has said.

The comments were made at a conference in London, ahead of the publication of a new paper by the Commonwealth Secretariat on trade fragmentation.

“Trade is increasingly fragmented across countries. This presents challenges for the architecture of regulation that governs and controls trade, taxation and investment relationships across borders,” the Secretary-General said.

The conference, ‘Harnessing the Commonwealth Advantage in International Trade’, organised jointly by the Commonwealth Secretariat, The Wealth Forums and Pinsent Masons, saw speakers analyse a number of pressing challenges and opportunities that countries around the world must tackle, such as the rise of protectionism, the implications of Brexit and the major shifts taking place within international trade.

The Secretary-General reflected on the rise of regional and bilateral trade agreements, otherwise known as trade fragmentation, as well as knowledge gaps that exist as a result of limited data in certain countries. Her speech to the conference, on 13 July, also emphasised taking advantage of the technological advancements that are transforming how trade takes place, such as the rise of new web-based platforms.

“We are facing a changing global landscape and the challenge ahead of us is to ensure that our trade, finance and investment governance structures are fit for purpose as we approach the third decade of the 21st Century,” she said.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s forthcoming e-publication on trade fragmentation will address the profound shift in how many countries have become ever more reliant on international trade for their economic growth model.

The Secretary-General added, “A particularly acute need for Commonwealth member states transitioning from the classification of being a ‘least developed country’ to that of being more developed, and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, is access to adequate finance.

“As a family bringing together some of the most economically-advanced and least developed countries, the Commonwealth provides a richly diverse yet sympathetic context within which to explore these issues.”

Global trade expanded by just 1.9 per cent in 2016, down from 2.4 per cent in the previous year – compared to an annual average growth rate of 6 per cent between 1980-2007.

Commonwealth member countries however enjoy a measurable trade advantage, tending to trade on average around 20 percent more compared to other trade partners, as well as benefitting from lower trade costs.

The Commonwealth Secretariat supports its member governments to respond to global economic and trade challenges and opportunities. Find out more about our work: thecommonwealth.org/economic-development