Trade and Diplomatic Connections: UK/Commonwealth

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 2016.

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Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes 12:00 am, 12th July 2016

What steps the Government are taking to promote trade and diplomatic connections between the UK and other Commonwealth countries.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We have eight Commonwealth trade envoys representing British business interests in 10 Commonwealth states. We have expanded the British Government’s representation in a number of countries, and we are looking forward to the inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers meeting in London in March next year, which will be co-hosted by ourselves and the Government of Malta.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

With the decision to withdraw from the EU, many British companies will be looking to expand their business with Commonwealth countries. What specific plans do the Government have to support them in that respect?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

That is something we are concentrating on. Intra-Commonwealth trade is estimated at over $680 billion, and it is projected to surpass $1 trillion by 2020. The Commonwealth includes 53 member states, a quarter of the world’s land mass and 2.2 billion people, and 60% of the Commonwealth’s population is under the age of 30, so there are some huge and exciting opportunities there.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Now that we have this wonderful opportunity to boost trade with the Commonwealth, will my right hon. Friend make sure that small countries in Africa and Asia are not left behind in what I believe will be a trade bonanza?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I hope my hon. Friend is right. It is worth remembering that three quarters of UK-Commonwealth trade is with India, Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia, so we do need to expand that into some of the Commonwealth countries of Africa.