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“Commonwealth business forum – a Sri Lankan view”
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“Commonwealth business forum – a Sri Lankan view”

salma yusufBolstering trade patterns within the Commonwealth will be a topic at the upcoming CHOGM and People’s Forum writes Salma Yusuf, a Correspondent from Sri Lanka, while history indicates the host country stands to see trade benefits.  

“Is there a business case for the Commonwealth?” then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair asked the   1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Edinburgh.

This paved the way to research and study, and the findings revealed that trade flows within the Commonwealth countries amounting to two trillion dollars. The similarity in accounting and governance structures and in management structures utilized among Commonwealth countries reduced transaction costs by 10 to 20 per cent. Hence, the ‘psychic distance’ was believed to be a short one, which led to the establishment of the Commonwealth Business Forum to be held in the wings of the CHOGM.

The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) is a unique gathering of business leaders from developed and emerging markets who join hands to share economic prosperity. It was established to promote trade, investment and increase the role of the private sector in national economies.

The CBF 2013 will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from November 12 – 14, 2013 on the eve of and in conjunction with CHOGM. The Forum will focus on the theme, “Partnering for Wealth Creation and Social Development: The Commonwealth, Indian Ocean, Pacific and SAARC.”

The special feature of the Commonwealth Business Forum 2013 will be a focus on building a new economic and financial architecture in the global economy, and ensuring that it is inclusive and beneficial to all. This year’s Forum will focus on the potential for partnership centred on one of the fastest growing regions of the world, namely, the Indian Ocean Rim.

CBF 2013 is set to provide a unique opportunity for governments and businesses to learn from more than 100 speakers and panelists including Heads of Government, Ministers of Finance, Trade and Development, Chairmen and Chief Executives of businesses and other industry leaders; meet and discuss trade, investment and partnership opportunities; learn of new businesses and investment projects; develop new business leads and identify new trade and investment partners; conduct and conclude business in one-to-one meetings with other international partners; network with policy makers, key government officials and business leaders; influence the global debate on important trade and investment issues; and contribute to key policy recommendations to Commonwealth Heads of Government.

The over-arching theme of CBF 2013 is Partnering for Wealth Creation and Social Development, and the keynote address will be delivered by the President of Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

CBF 2013 presents a tremendous opportunity for Sri Lanka – be it in the North, West, South or East of the country – to participate through both big and small businesses in order to look for new partnerships and opportunities. An expectation is that Sri Lanka will take advantage of this opportunity being the host country. At every CBF the host country benefits the most. It is an inescapable reality: for instance 10 billion dollars’ worth of investment and trade were sealed at CBF 2011 in Perth, Australia and 1 billion dollars’ worth of investment and trade were accrued at Trinidad and Tobago. The difference in amount is usually attributable to the size of the country and economy. For Sri Lanka, a 2 billion dollar investment and trading opportunity has been projected to be realized at CBF 2013.

Engagement is arranged with civil society where subjects of Corporate Social Responsibility; Society and Business and Corporate Governance are discussed. It is important to mention is that such themes are explored not in a vacuum but in the context of trade and investment and hence serve the purpose of infusing an ethical perspective into business and trade.

A tripartite session which involves the Commonwealth Foundation, the Commonwealth Business Council and Commonwealth Heads of Government will promote the idea that business cannot be done without abiding by ethics and good practice.

Having visited Sri Lanka on several occasions in the lead-up to CBF 2013, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Business Council, Dr Mohan Kaul stated that there exists encouraging interest in the upcoming CBF:I have been to Sri Lanka thrice already for preparatory work and have been encouraged by the positive approach to CBF. The private sector is gradually becoming encouraged by the prospect of the Forum. We are working actively with Chambers of Commerce across the country to generate further interest in the Forum and its potential.

“The private sector looks for certainty of policy and broad governance structures for enabling investment. Sri Lanka as a country has demonstrated consistency in these two aspects, hence private sector investment will be forthcoming.

“Worthy of mention is that the Sri Lankan Diaspora community is keen to invest in Sri Lanka in the belief that the people who suffered from the conflict must benefit from the dividends accrued from Commonwealth Forums,” Dr Kaul said.

salmayusuf@gmail.com

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About me: I am a Human Rights Lawyer based in Sri Lanka, and a visiting lecturer in law at University of Northumbria – Regional Campus for Sri Lanka & Maldives, and previously at the University of Colombo.

I serve on both national and international programmes in the fields of law, governance, human rights and transitional justice. I hope to build on my work in policy development, research, advocacy and publishing going forward.  

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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