Business and the Commonwealth (II): Exploring the notion of a “Commonwealth advantage” in trade

The London Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) provided a boost to the Commonwealth work on trade. ‘With the goal of expanding investment and boosting intra-Commonwealth trade to US$2 Trillion by 2030, Heads adopted a Declaration on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment and mandated the Secretariat to develop an accompanying action plan that considers capacity building and hard and soft connectivity.’ There have been two meetings of Commonwealth Trade Ministers since 2017 with forward momentum perhaps helped by an impasse at the WTO and the development of regional trade agreements especially in Africa, Asia and the Americas where Commonwealth countries are amongst the strongest proponents (and beneficiaries). 

The foundations of this can perhaps be traced to a seminal paper originally produced for the 1997 Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) on The ‘Commonwealth Effect’ and the Process of Internationalisation by Sarianna Lundan and Geoffrey Jones and the subsequent establishment and work of the Commonwealth Business Council. More recently Commonwealth Trade Reviews have been produced for CHOGMs since Malta in 2015 which have set out some evidence and the case for what Secretary General Patricia Scotland has called the ‘Commonwealth Advantage [which] enables member states to trade up to 20 per cent more with each other than with non-members, at a 21 per cent lower cost, on average. Our research also shows that these countries invest up to 27 per cent more within the Commonwealth than outside of it - almost tripling investment levels five years ago, which stood at 10 per cent.’ In tandem with this the House of Commons International Trade Committee Report on Trade and the Commonwealth: developing countries (2018) – and the UK Government’s response – has further highlighted the opportunities from a Commonwealth trade dividend.     


This meeting aims to interrogate and investigate this evidence and case by engaging with the original research that has built this momentum, research shared on panels at Academy of International Business events since 2012 including the Commonwealth effect on Country Alliances in Reducing the Transaction Costs of Internationalisation and recent policy initiatives. It will also hear private sector perspectives which Trade Ministers have made clear they welcome and value in a world especially in relation to what they have cited as ‘the particular importance of a supportive policy and regulatory ecosystem for Micro SMEs.’ This matters at any time but especially when the contours of Commonwealth trade are defined by Brexit and the growth of markets beyond Europe, evolving COVID-19 pandemic economic impacts and adapting to the digital trade era.  

  • Dr. Mohammad Razzaque, former Adviser & Head, International Trade Policy, Commonwealth Secretariat and Research Director, Policy Research Institute (PRI), Dhaka 
  • Dr. Surender Munjal, Associate Professor of International Business and Director of the James E. Lynch India and South-Asia Business Centre, University of Leeds and Commonwealth Research Network on International Business  
  • Richard Burge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) former and former Chief Executive, Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council  
  • Dr. Radika Kumar, Adviser, Infrastructure Policy, Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate, Commonwealth Secretariat 
  • Daniel Hatton, CEO and Founder, Commonwealth Fashion Council 
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Dr. Mohammad Razzaque, Dr. Surender Munjal, Richard Burge, Dr. Radika Kumar and Daniel Hatton
Event date: 
Tuesday, 23 March 2021 - 4:00pm