LONDON (CU)_Leaders of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth gather in Kigali this week for the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Ahead of his visit to the East African nation for the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented on the critical role played by the Commonwealth in mobilising the UK’s “regained sovereignty”.
The Commonwealth is an association of 54 independent and equal countries, including small island nations, bringing together 2.5 billion people from the Caribbean through Europe, the Indian Ocean, to Australia and the Far East. The members of the Commonwealth are vastly different in just about every way, as the association spans every geographical region, religion and culture. The Pacific coral island Nauru, with a population of 10,000 and area of 21 km2, is sitting alongside India, with a population of 1.3 billion, and Canada, with a total landmass of 10 million km2. However, all these differences are joined by an “invisible threat” of shares values, history and institutions, as well as the English language, according to PM Johnson.
“If you retort that this all sounds vague and whimsical and no job was ever created and no parsnip buttered by invisible threads or shared values, I would have to point out that you are mistaken – demonstrably and provably mistaken”, he said in an article published by the Telegraph. “It is an amazing fact that those invisible threads – particularly a common language and familiar legal and administrative systems – are of immense practical value for trade.”
The combined GDP of Commonwealth countries has risen by a quarter since 2017 to US$13.1 trillion in 2021, and is expected to grow by another 50 per cent to $19.5 trillion over the next five years. Accordingly, the “Commonwealth advantage” knocks off about 21 per cent of the trade between member states, while investments between Commonwealth nations are 27 per cent higher than for other country pairs, all of which create “a unique opportunity” for Britain, the country’s leader said. “That is why we are mobilising the UK’s regained sovereignty to sign free trade or economic partnership agreements with as many Commonwealth countries as possible.,” he added. According to PM Johnson, his government has entered such agreements with 33 countries so far, including Australia and New Zealand, while aiming for India in October.
However, he also highlighted the fact that those invisible threats binding Commonwealth nations together are not just about trade and amount to more than an opportunity for commerce. He pointed to the Commonwealth games which will be hosted by the UK in Birmingham next month, where “athletes and visitors from across the world will converge on the UK”. On the other hand, the Commonwealth member states together have the weight to exert global influence, as they comprise over a quarter of the total membership of the United Nations. PM Johnson further noted that in 2020, Britain delivered the first Joint Statement by all 54 members of the association at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“I will go to the Commonwealth summit ever more convinced that our unique association, already proving its worth every day, will become yet more valuable in the decades ahead,” he said. “Like the Queen, we should all cherish the Commonwealth.”