Caribbean trade ministers join their counterparts in London

June 05, 2023
Commonwealth trade ministers meeting in London (Commonwealth Secretariat photo)

LONDON, Jun 5, CMC – Commonwealth trade ministers, including those from the Caribbean, began a two-day meeting here on Monday providing a platform for ministers to review the progress made since the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, who unsuccessfully  contested the post of Commonwealth secretary general in June last year, is among regional trade ministers attending the deliberations  that the London-based Secretariat said affords an opportunity to discuss and deliberate on key issues related to trade and investment.

“Always seeking to ensure the perspectives of developing countries including SIDS (Small Island Developing States) are considered in discussions on global policies that impact our development prospects,” Johnson Smith said in a post on Twitter , adding that she is looking forward to the trade ministers conference as it marks the first in-person gathering since 2019 and presents an excellent opportunity for Jamaica and other SIDS to leverage Commonwealth relationships to enhance trade and investment in a complex global environment.

The conference is being held under the theme “Delivering a Common Future: Cooperation for Resilient, Inclusive, Green and Digital Economies,” and provides an option to explore  opportunities for mutual cooperation to increase intra-Commonwealth trade

The Dominican-born Commonwealth Secretary General,  Patricia Scotland KC, told the opening ceremony “we are here because we share a common vision: to achieve two trillion US dollars in intra-Commonwealth trade by 2030.

“We gather in a time of change and challenge. All of us are tightly bound by a tangled knot of crises spanning global systems: A world living with the social, political and economic consequences of COVID-19, crippling debt, rising inflation and high interest rates, spiralling costs for food and energy, tremors of instability and conflict and the increasingly harsh impacts of climate change.”

She told the conference that in isolation, each of these challenges is grave and serious, but they interconnect, entwine, and worsen one another, threatening the group’s collective well-being.

She said following on from two meetings of senior trade officials, a gathering of the Caucus of Ambassadors to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, and the outstanding preparatory work done by the Commonwealth’s superb Trade Team, “we can say with all confidence that we are ready to get down to business.”

The Commonwealth Secretary General also addressed the challenges of inclusive and sustainable trade,  emphasising the need to address climate change, bridge the digital infrastructure divide, and maintain a transparent, inclusive, open, and fair-trading system with the WTO.

She called on the trade ministers to take bold and ambitious steps to fulfil the important mandates given by Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kigali in 2022.

In his opening remarks, the conference chair,  Dr Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, the Minister of Trade and Industry for Rwanda said “practical and action-oriented commitments should be the outcome of our meeting, noting the tremendous efforts made so far.

“Commonwealth principles and values must continue to drive our deliberations and commitments, taking bold and ambitious steps to respond to the important mandate given to us by our heads of government.”

The Secretariat said that during the meeting, ministers will evaluate the state of the multilateral trading system in preparation for the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference to be held in Abu Dhabi in February 2024.

“The discussions will cover several themes, including trade policy solutions to address the climate crisis, enhancing digital trade, supporting the multilateral trading system, and deepening trade and investment across the Commonwealth,” the Secretariat added.

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