Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Can the Commonwealth help developing countries trade out of poverty?


Can the Commonwealth help developing countries trade out of poverty?

Can the Commonwealth help developing countries trade out of poverty?
Photo credit: UN Women | Joe Saade

About the Inquiry

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Trade Out of Poverty (APPG-TOP) is undertaking an Inquiry into whether the Commonwealth can help developing countries trade out of poverty.

The aim of the Inquiry is to gather evidence and set out concrete proposals for consideration/adoption by Commonwealth member states at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London during April 2018. The Inquiry is jointly organised as an initiative between the APPG-TOP and the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and is led by a Committee of eminent persons and experts.

The inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting (CTMM) held in London in March 2017, offered the APPG-TOP and ODI the opportunity to begin a wide-reaching policy discussion through the launch of a booklet on 10 Commonwealth policy priorities for trade and development[1] and the convening of a Wilton Park conference on ‘Creating a consensus-based Commonwealth vision for trade negotiation, facilitation and finance’. With the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in London in April 2018, this Inquiry provides a unique opportunity to build on this momentum, engage a wider group of stakeholders, and make a powerful case for an ambitious new trade and development agenda for the Commonwealth.

The full Terms of Reference for the Inquiry can be accessed here.

Inquiry Committee and Secretariat

The Inquiry is led by a Committee of eminent persons and experts co-chaired by Lord Jeremy Purvis from the UK and Hon Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment from Nigeria, Okechukwu Enelamah. In addition to the Co-Chairs, the Inquiry Committee Members are:

  • Harsha Singh, Executive Director, Brookings India

  • Patricia Francis, former Executive Director, WTO-UNCTAD International Trade Centre

  • Dirk Willem te Velde, Head, International Economic Development, ODI

  • Catherine Clark, Head, International Relations, Prudential plc

  • Steven Pope, Vice President, DHL Express Europe plc

  • Trudi Hartzenberg, Executive Director, Tralac Southern Africa

  • Phil Rourke, Executive Director, Centre for Trade Policy & Law, Carleton University

  • Angela Straughan, Independent Consultant in Trade Facilitation

  • Chi Atanga, Entrepreneur and CEO, Walls of Benin

  • Lisa McAuley, CEO, Export Council of Australia

The Secretariat for the APPG-TOP (provided by Saana Consulting) and ODI will support the Inquiry Committee in gathering evidence, organising hearings and preparing the associated reports.

Submission of Evidence & Hearings

The Inquiry Committee are interested to receive written evidence from interested parties to support the Inquiry. The submissions will be shared with the Inquiry Committee ahead of the Hearings, which will be held in the UK Parliament on 16th November 2017.

The evidence submission guidelines can be found here, and downloaded here.

Background to the Inquiry

The Commonwealth is an association of fifty-two diverse countries spanning Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific, and bound by historic ties, shared values and long-established trading relations. With a combined economy of more than $10 trillion, a population of 2.3 billion, and annual GDP growth in excess of 4 per cent, the Commonwealth is uniquely placed to become a driving force behind global trade for development[2].

Commonwealth members’ combined exports of goods and services account for roughly 15 per cent of the world’s total exports. While not a trading block, trade costs are 19 per cent lower and countries tend to trade 20 per cent more when bilateral trade takes place between Commonwealth countries[3]. Unsurprising then, the growth of intra-Commonwealth trade is set to continue with the value of trade forecast to surpass $1 trillion by 2020.

The inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers’ Meeting in March 2017 highlighted the importance the governments of Commonwealth states place on improving conditions for trade and investment. The 10 Commonwealth Policy Priorities for Trade and Development published in March 2017 by ODI and APPG-TOP were put forward to encourage trade ministers to prioritise trade policies and programmes that would enhance development outcomes in the Commonwealth. The 10 recommendations were:

  1. Reduce costs by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

  2. Ensure that the benefits of tariff preferences are maximised for developing countries

  3. Increase connectivity to better facilitate

  4. Expand trade finance for small and medium sized enterprises

  5. Expand women’s participation in trade

  6. Develop skills for trade

  7. Promote green growth through trade

  8. More and better-targeted aid for trade

  9. Establish a Commonwealth-wide trademark system

  10. Improve trade governance

Given that the Commonwealth includes a significant number of developing countries, thirty of which are classified as small states (many of these being islands), it is crucial that trade is harnessed to promote sustainable development. This Inquiry will help ensure that this message is amplified in the lead up to CHOGM 2018 and can play an integral role in shaping and driving the Commonwealth’s trade and development agenda forward.

[1] 10 Commonwealth Policy Priorities for Trade and Development. Available at: https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/resource-documents/11341.pdf

[2] Ibid

[3] The Commonwealth in the Unfolding Global Trade Landscape: Prospects Priorities Perspectives Commonwealth Trade Review 2015. Available at: https://www.tralac.org/discussions/article/8587-the-commonwealth-launches-trade-review-report.html


Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel +27 21 880 2010