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Commonwealth can lead the growth in global trade, say experts at India-Commonwealth SME Trade Summit

 New Delhi, May 30 (KNN) The The First India-Commonwealth SME Trade Summit was inaugurated here today. Deliberating at the event experts pointed that Commonwealth can lead the growth in global trade at a time when the world economy is witnessing a slowdown and it is almost 19 per cent more cost effective to trade within and amongst Commonwealth countries than to trade from a Commonwealth to a Non-Commonwealth country.

Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia, Deputy Secretary General of Commonwealth Deodat Maharaj along with other dignitaries from Commonwealth Countries were present at the inaugural session.

The Summit, first of its kind, is being supported by Ministry of Commerce & Industry and is being organized in association with the India –Commonwealth SME Association (ICSA):  a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat, London and India’s three premier industry bodies: Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and industry (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises (FISME). 

In his welcome address, Dinesh Tripathi, President, FISME, said, “Never before in the history, there is so much convergence on the meaning of word ‘Commonwealth’ both literally and figuratively. Member nations are discovering the hidden wealth in enormous potential opportunities in intra-Commonwealth trade.”

Tripathi said FISME, the founder member if ICSA, is set to play decisive role in its growth.

The Commonwealth Secretariat, London, facilitated the launch of ICSA in June 2016.

This is the first India-Commonwealth SME Trade Summit. There are over three hundred business delegations from India and from across the Commonwealth countries that are participating in the event to explore and extend trade and investment relations. 

In her opening remarks, Rita Teatotia, Secretary, Commerce & Industry Ministry appreciated the Commonwealth Secretariat for its contribution in organizing the event.

She said, “We have met here at a time when all policy makers, all players in the economy do see as a critical juncture in the world economy and trade. We faced with some uncertainty that there is a concern that there is a slowdown which we have faced and there is a rise of protectionism which certainly is a matter of concern to developing countries and to countries who are attempting to build future for their citizens. This is a time to make mechanism to support investment and trade, employment and growth. And we need to look for it in those part of world where there is a environment to do so.”

Teaotia said SMEs accounts for huge percentage of economic activities.

“The traditional image of SME sector has been that it is tradition based, it is small and low tech but in fact this is not the reality. The SMEs not just expand to the traditional sectors but it also goes to the high-tech areas,” she added.

She stressed on the need to create regular forum for interaction which would help in actualizing the potential of trade amongst commonwealth countries.

SMEs are the once who face most the brunt of challenges in terms of regulations, standards and non-tariff measures which seems to diminish their effectiveness, the Commerce Secretary asserted adding that more than the tariffs these tend to be the real protectionist measures that restrict trade.

She said there is a strong case for solidarity amongst the commonwealth countries on trade facilitation of services which may lead to positive outcomes.

Deodat Maharaj, Deputy Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat, in his key note address, said “This Summit is timely as we seek to boost intra-commonwealth trade. Amidst the slowdown in the global market, there is as advantage in commonwealth bloc called the Commonwealth Advantage.”

He said it is almost 19 per cent more cost effective to trade within and amongst Commonwealth countries than to trade from Commonwealth to non-Commonwealth country.

Maharaj said, “In March of this year, the Commerce Secretary and Trade Ministers of Commonwealth affirmed the importance of need for intra-commonwealth trade and investment to be diversified and deepened.”

“The urgency for doing so propelled by the un-presedentant slowdown in world trade which has affected the trade performance of most commonwealth countries,” he pointed.

The world trade expanded by only about 1.7 per cent in 2016 which was significantly below of average growth of about 6.5 per cent over almost three decades in 1980 to 2007 and prior to global crisis.

World export of goods and services contracted by USD 2.8 trillion in 2015, a decline of almost of 12%. 

He asserted that India being the largest Commonwealth member in terms of population has an important leadership role to play and I must say India is playing that leadership role.

Intra-Commonwealth trade amounts to only 14% of total world commonwealth trade, noted the Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General adding that the Commonwealth Secretariat is working to increase it to 25 per cent by 2020.

The other dignitaries present at the event include Dr Rashmi Banga, Adviser and Head of Trade Competitiveness at Commonwealth Secretariat, London; Yassin Awale, Advisory Board Member, ICSA; Shafquat Haider, Advisory Board Member, ICSA; Abhijit Das, Head, Centre for WTO Studies etc. (KNN Bureau)