Trade ministers from the Commonwealth have made a commitment to resist all forms of protectionism and promote reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which sets the global rules for international trade.
Following a meeting held on October 10 in London, the United Kingdom (UK), trade ministers and, as in the case of Malawi, officials from trade ministries from 53 member countries of the Commonwealth declared their collective support for free trade in a transparent, inclusive, fair and open multilateral trading system.
They also agreed that any WTO reform should take into account views of all members, underlining the special circumstances of the developing and least developed countries, as well as small and vulnerable economies, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Ministers also endorsed an action plan designed to boost trade among their countries to at least $2 trillion by 2030, through the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. The development comes at a time intra-Commonwealth trade is projected to reach $700 billion by next year.
Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, said there was need for countries to conduct trade in a fair environment.
“The multilateral trading system is the only way for our countries, as diverse as they are, to trade in a predictable, stable, transparent and fair environment. While the global trading system may be far from perfect, it is the surest pathway towards eradicating poverty.
“Building on this, the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda will help businesses, including micro, small and medium sized enterprises, to plug into global trade networks and benefit from world trade. In this way, intra-Commonwealth trade offers immense opportunities to contribute to reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development,” Scotland said.
The sentiments were made when ministers called for an end to the impasse regarding the WTO’s Appellate Body – a key panel of judges, whose rulings help resolve trade disputes.
The outcomes of the meeting will inform leaders’ discussions at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, slated for June next year.