UK Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to put the 52 other nations in the Commonwealth at the heart of a global Britain after Brexit, as London hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) for the first time in 20 years.
The Commonwealth is an organisation of 53 member states – including Malta – that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
Mrs May called for the Commonwealth to be a beacon for free trade, at a time of increasing protectionism, and urged the use of common standards across all 53 countries, warning that global growth was fragile and that protectionism posed a clear threat to the world economy.
“With its unique scope and global voice, such a Commonwealth can set a powerful example to the world, one that demonstrates and underlines the importance of protecting free trade and the rules-based international order,” she said.
“Freer and easier trade means stronger economies, more jobs, more choice and lower prices.”
Mrs May opened he summit’s three-day business forum in the City, with an agenda squarely focused on promoting London’s strengths, including modern financial services, technology-enabled borderless trade, fintech and cyber security.
The summit will also encourage more businesses owned by women to start exporting, and consider Zimbabwe’s possible readmission. Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002, before it withdrew from the organisation in 2003.
While the Commonwealth is not a trading bloc, like the EU, the value of goods and services flowing within the Commonwealth was estimated at $560bn (€453bn) by a Commonwealth trade review this year.
One of the most interesting discussions at this year’s CHOGM will be about who replaces Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth. It’s likely to be her last attendance at CHOGM, as the soon-to-be 92-year-old scales back on her travelling duties.