In the age of Brexit, with businesses facing up to new economic uncertainties, the UK and rest of the world will benefit from the fact that there is already a global community which has free trade at its heart.
The Commonwealth spans Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific, with 53 member nations ranging in size from India, Canada and Australia to fast growing and emerging economies. 31 of its members are classified as small states and the organisation is committed to helping them develop. Increasing trade between members will support these development ambitions.
The Commonwealth Charter states that it is, “committed to an effective, equitable, rules-based multilateral trading system, the freest possible flow of multilateral trade on terms fair and equitable to all, while taking into account the special requirements of small states and developing countries.”
Since the UK’s decision on Brexit, there are renewed calls for the creation of a Commonwealth Free Trade Zone and the UK will soon have more freedom to negotiate on trade with its Commonwealth partners. The Commonwealth is a diverse group but its commitment to free trade is bolstered by a shared inheritance in language, culture and similar legal structures; and bound together by common history and tradition.
The Commonwealth Charter also “recognises the importance of information and communication technologies as powerful instruments of development.” The explosion of eCommerce in recent years makes international trade more simple and can enable rapid growth.
Increased trade between Commonwealth nations and the resulting economic expansion will also drive other benefits. Reducing poverty, embedding good governance and ethical trading, can increase stability and mitigate the forces that are driving economic migration.
In an age of uncertainty, it is reassuring that the Commonwealth has been around in its current form for almost 70 years with a commitment to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity built into its founding principles. Increasing trade between the UK and the Commonwealth can only be beneficial to all its citizens.