India key to initiative on trade, says Commonwealth secretary-general

India plays host for the first Commonwealth summit on small and medium-sized enterprises in May.

world Updated: Mar 10, 2017 21:11 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Commonwealth,Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council,Brexit
Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland (right) and Sri Lanka minister for International Trade Malik Samarawickrama in London on Friday. (HT Photo)

Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland on Friday hailed India’s “incredibly supportive” role in a new trade initiative launched by the 52-member group.

Top trade officials of the member nations were concluding a two-day meeting organised by the Commonwealth secretariat and the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CEIC), which aimed at revitalising trade within the intergovernmental organisation as well as seize Brexit-related opportunities.

“India has been incredibly supportive in providing trade facilitation across the Commonwealth, particularly for small and medium enterprises. India’s participation has been intense and enthusiastic,” Scotland said, in response to a question by Hindustan Times at a media briefing.

The event acquired added significance in the context of Britain leaving the European single market and thus turning its focus towards the Commonwealth.

Emphasising state-private sector cooperation, Scotland said “no country should be left behind” in the post-Brexit trade landscape.

“Our family has never been more needed that it is today. We all know that we’ve been living in troubled and troubling times and we will have to look very carefully together at what advantages there are within our family. Therefore, intra-Commonwealth trade has never been more important”, Scotland said.

Initiatives agreed at the meeting included appointing a trade ambassador with a mandate across the Commonwealth, sharing best practices on regulation, business, legislation and anti-corruption measures related to trade, and practical ways of enhancing intra-Commonwealth trade.

India is due to host the first summit for Commonwealth small and medium-sized enterprises in New Delhi in May. Commerce secretary Rita A Teotia, who represented India at the meet in London, invited trade ministers to the summit and highlighted the country’s role in emphasising trade facilitation services in intra-Commonwealth trade, currently standing at 17%.

Teotia noted that the Commonwealth secretariat had identified 35 products that India can export in 50 markets and increase exports by $22 billion. India’s efforts will also help link 20 least developed countries in the group to global value chains and increase exports by $12 billion, she added.

CEIC chairman Jonathan Marland said due to Brexit, Britain’s trade arrangements “are up for grabs”, adding that London will approach potential partners for free trade agreements post-Brexit (such as India) “with a degree of humility”.

First Published: Mar 10, 2017 20:55 IST