Trade ministers and senior officials from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of nations have praised the Commonwealth for enhancing their trade capacity. At the same time, they have called for further assistance.
Officials made the comments at the ACP Ministerial Trade Committee meeting in Brussels.
“We have appreciated Commonwealth support for the development aspirations of Jamaica both at the national and regional level, particularly through the Hub and Spokes programme,” said Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, as she thanked Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
The Hub and Spokes programme is an aid-for-trade initiative jointly managed by the European Union, Commonwealth Secretariat, ACP Group Secretariat, and the Organisation International de la Francophonie. At the trade meeting, the Secretary-General announced its extension until February 2019, to give time for a successor-programme to be developed.
The Ambassador of Vanuatu to Belgium and the European Union, John Licht, echoed the sentiments of Jamaica’s Foreign Minister. He described the Hub and Spokes programme as a valuable initiative, one that must continue.
The ACP Group, which shares 40 members with the Commonwealth, currently has preferential access to the European Union (EU) market including the United Kingdom.
Speaking at the opening, Secretary-General Scotland presented three potential strands of collaboration between the Commonwealth and the ACP to ensure trade continues to support inclusive economic growth and sustainable development after Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.
The first strand entails continuing engagement with the EU27, two of which are Commonwealth countries - Cyprus and Malta. Both countries have expressed strong interest in working within the EU on behalf of other Commonwealth member countries.
The second strand focuses on working together to examine the trade possibilities offered within the context of Brexit once final terms are agreed.
The Commonwealth has previously worked with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa to examine likely impacts of Brexit. Its analysis may be broadened in collaboration with the ACP Secretariat.
The third strand involves leveraging “south-south engagement”, including the potential to explore a greater interface between the ACP Group and rapidly industrialising Commonwealth countries in Asia.
The Secretary-General also gave officials insights into trade-related outcomes from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in April. They include the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment, aimed at supporting global growth, employment, knowledge sharing and development across the Commonwealth.