Small businesses in the Pacific will benefit from a better commercial environment, more links to global trade, as well as enhanced skills to leverage opportunities under the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment.
Speaking at on a panel organised by the New Zealand High Commission in London on 7 November, the Commonwealth’s Legal Adviser for Trade, Kirk Haywood, outlined how Pacific countries could capitalise more on intra-Commonwealth trade, which member countries aim to boost to $2 trillion by 2030.
“Despite the economic diversity within the Commonwealth, there are key commonalities that make trading amongst members easier and more attractive. The Connectivity Agenda has a sharp focus on supporting micro, small and medium enterprises that make up much of the private sector in the Pacific, ensuring that they get maximum benefit from international trade,” he said.
The Connectivity Agenda is a new approach to trade and investment, endorsed by Commonwealth leaders at their summit in April. It promotes growth and job creation, bringing together sector-level policymakers and actors into action-oriented ‘clusters’. Clusters focus on five key areas of connectivity: physical, digital, regulatory, business-to-business and supply-side.
Under the theme ‘Building sustainable and inclusive trade in the Asia-Pacific and beyond’, the panel identified the unique challenges faced by small island countries in the Pacific.
“Pacific Islands have small populations, are located far from major markets, struggle with high cost of doing business and have limited investment inflows. With a 0.05 per cent share of world trade, regional integration is the only way to increase trade and reap the benefits,” said the Director of Agriculture and Commodities at the World Trade Organisation, Edwini Kessie.
Head of the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Initiative, Vanessa Erogbogbo added: “Trade must benefit those who are most vulnerable and marginalised. This includes women, youth and those with small businesses who have a hard time building trust, making market connections, and accessing finance, often while operating in a poor business environment.”
The Associate Director of the New Zealand International Business Forum, Stephanie Honey, who chaired the panel, concluded by stressing the importance of sharing the benefits of trade widely.
The event was organised by the New Zealand High Commission in conjunction with the Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.