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A delegate from Bangladesh speaking at the Commonwealth Cluster meeting

Week-long event sees officials work to boost Commonwealth trade and investment

29 August 2019

Officials from across the Commonwealth have gathered to discuss how they can boost trade and investment links across the 53 member countries.

Leaders adopted the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda (CCA) at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April 2018 with a view to raising intra-Commonwealth trade to US$2 trillion by 2030.

It is structured around five clusters/working groups, each chaired by a member state and featuring members who participate on a voluntary, opt-in basis.

Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda Cluster Week (August 27-31) sees all five working groups engaging in separate and cross-cluster meetings, sharing ideas and discussing how best to tackle various trade and investment issues. These are:

  • Physical Connectivity focusing on digital infrastructure and led by the Gambia;
  • Digital Connectivity focusing on digital transformation and the digital economy and co-led by South Africa and the United Kingdom;
  • Regulatory Connectivity focusing on the regulatory environment for MSMEs and led by Barbados;
  • Business-to-Business Connectivity focusing on improving Commonwealth business links and led by Bangladesh; and
  • Supply Side Connectivity focusing on participation and upgrading of MSMEs in agribusiness value chains, and led by Vanuatu.

Speaking at the meeting via video-message, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, told delegates: “Since being launched in January, all clusters have made impressive progress - with 75 institutions participating, and representing 35 member countries.

“Such commitment and collaboration are most commendable, particularly at this time when multilateralism seems increasingly to be threatened.”

She added: “Your collective efforts and cooperation demonstrate the exemplary ability of the Commonwealth to make pioneering progress, including on some of the thornier issues besetting trade at present.

“It is particularly valuable to have case studies prepared by policymakers, which identify and draw together examples of policy success and best practice that have been refined and honed through experience in a range of contexts.”

The work of each cluster will feed into the 2019 Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting which will be convened in October 2019 for the first time in 14 years. Outcomes will, in turn, be reported to CHOGM 2020 to update heads on progress.

The President of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Shaun Gilchrist, said: "From the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry's perspective, along with Vanuatu's perspective, this is a great opportunity for us to not only collaborate with fellow Commonwealth countries, but understand and utilise the Commonwealth structure for ourselves going forward in a better fashion." 

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