The 2023 Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting drew to a close today, with a resolute focus on collaborative efforts to nurture resilient, inclusive, green, and digital economies. Building upon the initiatives endorsed by Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kigali, Rwanda, in June 2022, the Trade Ministers engaged in deep deliberations concerning the challenges confronting the global economy. They underscored the significance of constructing sustainable and robust economies in the aftermath of COVID-19.
In a display of solidarity, the Ministers expressed their shared dedication to intensify cooperation in aiding all members, particularly developing countries, least developed countries, small states, and small island developing states, in harnessing the benefits of international trade.
A notable outcome of the meeting was the decision to assign the Commonwealth Working Group on Trade and Investment the task of formulating an actionable investment plan, with the objective of bolstering investment flows among Commonwealth member nations.
This initiative aims to bolster economic growth, with a particular focus on infrastructure development and environmentally-friendly investments. Moreover, the Trade Ministers emphasised the need to facilitate a digital transition and promote digital trade for comprehensive progress and development. To bridge the digital divide and address skills gaps, Commonwealth members highlighted the importance of nurturing digital public infrastructure, ensuring affordable access to technologies, and promoting digital financial services.
The Ministers agreed to establish a new Legal Reform and Digitalisation Working Group as part of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda’s Business-to-Business Cluster. This group will provide assistance to member countries in transitioning to paperless trade.
Reaffirming their commitment to a transparent and inclusive rules-based multilateral trading system, the Trade Ministers placed the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core. They expressed concerns regarding protectionist measures and unfair trading practices that undermine the rules-based trading system, calling for ongoing reforms in multilateral trading rules pertaining to agriculture and the seamless functioning of supply chains.
In a joint effort, they designated Rwanda, serving as the Chair-in-Office, to present a mutually agreed statement on behalf of Commonwealth Trade Ministers at the forthcoming 13th WTO Ministerial Conference in February 2024.
The outcome statement also emphasised the importance of tackling global challenges such as climate change, food security, and women’s economic empowerment through trade and investment. The Trade Ministers demonstrated their dedication to promoting sustainable trade practices, green economies, and the empowerment of women-owned businesses.
Following the meeting, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland KC, delivered her remarks, “I am delighted to announce the successful outcomes of the 2023 Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting. The Commonwealth remains steadfast in its commitment to fortifying the multilateral trading system, deepening trade and investment, fostering sustainability, and facilitating the transition to a digital era. I eagerly anticipate continued collaboration among our members as we strive for a brighter and more prosperous Commonwealth.”
The 2023 Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting paves the way for the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Apia, Samoa, scheduled for 2024. During this event, these issues will be further discussed and deliberated upon.