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Reception to launch 2015 Commonwealth Business Forum

27 February 2015
Speaker: Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma

Prime Minister, distinguished Ministers guests, Commonwealth friends…

I must first thank Prime Minister Muscat for his leadership and commitment to delivering an impressive Commonwealth Business Forum in Malta.

We appreciate the attention being devoted to the Forum by his Government and by the business community of Malta.

It is also an immensely important flagship project for the new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, and we thank Lord Marland for guiding and driving that development.

All four of the Forums associated with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting are outstanding examples of the convening power of the Commonwealth.

They bring fresh expression to the many ways in which the Commonwealth is ‘Adding Global Value’ – our CHOGM theme.

Most importantly they provide one-stop opportunities for global connection, to make or renew contact, and for exploring new possibilities.

This is particularly true of the Business Forum. The Commonwealth is open for business, and it is open to business.

The legitimate interests of the business community are legitimate Commonwealth interests; Commonwealth concerns are also the concerns of people who want to do business, bring growth to their economies, create resources for social investment, safeguard the environment and create gainful employment for people and create a healthy and happy society.

The agenda for CHOGM is also likely to include issues of great importance to the business community – such as debt sustainability, trade finance, unlocking resources for the environment, and country-to-country technical cooperation.

Members of the enterprise and investment community are indispensable partners in almost all that we seek to achieve.

Correspondingly, innovative Commonwealth thinking and advocacy deliver favourable environments where business and commerce are encouraged to flourish both – within and among our member states.

We work to create conditions of good governance that are conducive to growth and enterprise. Together with the rich Commonwealth combination of affinity and diversity, this offers the environment needed for trade and enterprise to flourish.

This is borne out by the fact that in the highly-respected Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, in the top rated half, 16 of 26 are Commonwealth countries, while in the bottom 26, only 2 are Commonwealth countries.

Doing business with Commonwealth counterparts is greatly eased by our member countries having parliamentary, judicial, legal and educational systems that share many characteristics.

We are able to communicate in a common language.  It is commonly alluded to as the Commonwealth advantage, and different – but high values are put on it. 

The striking diversity of Commonwealth markets, and the possibilities for partnership offered by our overlapping networks, are given due prominence in the Commonwealth Charter.

Job creation, diversification, social and economic inclusion - all vital factors in building towards Commonwealth goals of national resilience and sustainable development - are driven by commerce and enterprise.

There are immense reservoirs of potential yet to be tapped in and by Commonwealth commercial and business communities to mobilise faster growth in the economies of member states.

Great work is being done by the Commonwealth Alliances of Young Entrepreneurs – in Asia, in the Caribbean and Americas, and soon in Africa too. These go-ahead networks are linking young entrepreneurs regionally and pan-Commonwealth.

Advancing entrepreneurship among women is an equal priority.

Where a culture is nurtured that encourages investment in youth and women’s enterprise, enormous economic and social benefits are multiplied for the wider community.

Financial institutions, and industry and trade bodies, have a crucial part to play in achieving these vital goals.  The CEIC proposes to work with them.

That is why we welcome the focus brought by the Commonwealth Business Forum alongside the Heads of Government Meeting.  It helps in very practical ways to advance Commonwealth cooperation on trade and investment, and on other business-related aspects of development and wealth creation.

Fresh initiatives exploit distinctive Commonwealth advantage for trade and investment, which can be gained through greater utilisation of our potential, and by supporting broader and deeper business-to-business relations in all regions of the Commonwealth.

We look forward to a re-energised and revitalised Commonwealth and Commonwealth business ties following the Malta CHOGM in November, and to new trading opportunities, joint ventures, and mutually beneficial projects arising from new introductions and alliances made at the Commonwealth Business Forum and worthy of the opportunities that abound today.

It is a great and exhilarating enterprise – like the Commonwealth itself.