1307Published on April 18, 2018
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has placed a seven-point proposal to promote intra-Commonwealth trade, investment and innovation and urged the grouping to keep the trade regime open and transparent.
"We should ensure that the trade regime remains open, rules-based, transparent, inclusive and fair," she said while taking part in an event titled "Commonwealth's Role in Promoting Trade, Investment and Innovation" on Wednesday.
The premier said 60 percent of the Commonwealth population was under the age of 30 which she called the grouping's "biggest asset" asserting that it must tap the huge pool of talent to drive intra-Commonwealth trade, investment and creative energy.
Simultaneously, she said, leveraging their commonalities the 53-member Commonwealth grouping should aim to implement the proposals.
The suggestions, among other issues, sought to -- frame a common investment policy; minimise non-tariff barriers; develop PTA and FTA; open market for services; technology transfer; visa liberalisation; and enhanced connectivity.
She said the grouping should launch a study for the member states' need assessment in terms of sectoral and industrial potentials and productivity.
The second point of the proposal suggested adoption of common investment policies, guidelines, and strategies, including diaspora investment opportunities.
Thirdly, she said, the Commonwealth should achieve improved trade logistics and facilitation measures and minimise non-tariff barriers and develop PTA and FTA on building block basis.
The premier sought liberal regime for trade in services and open market for services benefiting individual professionals, and easy movement of bonafide business people under well-vetted schemes and visa liberalisation for certain public and private categories.
Sheikh Hasina urged the grouping to launch infrastructure and connectivity projects while in the seventh point she proposed creation of a fund for development, R&D, technology transfer, capacity building and support for institutions and centres of excellence, including in the SME and blue economy sectors.
The premier said the Commonwealth should pursue these issues for increasing growth and creating jobs.
She said upheavals in the landscape of global trade, threats to the multilateral trading system, and uncertainties in financial markets made it more important than ever to look at how the Commonwealth could be a positive force in promoting trade, investment and innovation.
Currently the intra-Commonwealth trade is estimated to stand at little more than US$ 600 billion while the 53 member states account for the world's 16 percent GDP whereas 28 European Union countries account for 19 percent of global GDP.
The premier said between 2013 and 2015, Commonwealth countries grew at a combined rate of 4.1 percent of GDP, compared to 1.8 percent in the EU and 2.6 per cent in the United States.
More importantly, she said, the Commonwealth has a population of over two billion, four times higher than that of the EU which "tell us the huge potential to boost intra-Commonwealth trade and investment".
Sheikh Hasina said she was happy that the Commonwealth Trade Ministers joined in their first-ever meeting last year when they "discussed the 'Commonwealth Factor' of shared culture which makes doing business 20 percent cheaper between the Commonwealth (nations) than with non-members".