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Intra-CW trade can reach $2tn by 2030

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Staff Reporter
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on Wednesday said Commonwealth advantages and potentials have to be exploited through a "reformed and revitalized" organization.
"We're thinking aloud of a Commonwealth of tomorrow, a reformed and re-launched Commonwealth," he said.
The Foreign Minister was speaking at a seminar titled 'Commonwealth Advantage - Progress and Potential' at Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) in the city as the chief guest.
Visiting Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland spoke as a guest speaker while State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam as a special guest.
The Foreign Minister said Commonwealth's present state and the context of Brexit are prompting Bangladesh to explore new possibilities and to think, how to transform the organization and make it more responsive to the evolving international realities and the needs and expectations of the majority of its developing member states.
"The world has changed, the historical context has changed, and the member states role in, value of and expec-tations from the Commonwealth have also undergone evolution. But the approach, priorities and orientations of Commonwealth have not. Reform, therefore, is a must," he said.
Minister Ali said the Commonwealth has to evolve and come up with priorities along the expectations of its member states that are mostly developing ones. "The Commonwealth must graduate into an organisation, pre-pared to meet the evolving needs of the member states through collective initiatives."
He said restructuring of the Commonwealth may include creation of new bodies and mechanisms and reorgan-ising old ones, such as forming a Commonwealth Development Fund or a Bank.
The Commonwealth Secretary General said that multilateral trade connectivity among the 53 member states can boost trade to US$ 2 trillion.
She said they projected a decade ago that intra-Commonwealth trade should reach around US$ 700 billion by 2020 and now their vision is building on Commonwealth advantage to increase intra-Commonwealth trade to US$ 2 trillion by 2030 and expand intra-commonwealth investment.
Pointing to different opportunities, she said, "We've found [through research] that we can grow intra-commonwealth merchandise exports by 5 percent if we reduce by 10 percent taken paper work confronting exporters and daily transactions."
She highlighted issues related to business, prosperity, sustainability saying these are real opportunities to en-hance dynamism in member countries.
The Commonwealth Secretary General said working together is the way forward if they want to have safety and security. "We've an opportunity to enhance business together."
She did say nothing about the Rohingya issue during her speech. However, when asked, she said Rohingya is-sue is an important issue for the Commonwealth and appreciated Bangladesh for sheltering and providing hu-manitarian support to a large number of Rohingyas.
Shahriar Alam said Bangladesh, as an LDC graduating into middle-income status, sees good value and use in rules based preferential and free trading system, especially within a Commonwealth of 2.3 billion people.
He said trade among Commonwealth countries is expected to increase by at least 17 per cent to around $700 billion by 2020. "Together with greenfield investment, intra-commonwealth trade is expected to surpass $1.5 trillion, as projected by the Commonwealth Trade Review 2018."
To enhance trade and investment, Shahriar Alam said, they seriously need to take forward the visa liberaliza-tion project discussed during the Malta CHOGM for providing smart cards or long-term multiple visa schemes for bonafide business people.
He said they can think of ocean cruise liners cum-container lorry services operating under regular shipping services. "We can also think of intra Commonwealth investment under PPP system with 20% less cost of doing business."
BIISS Chairman Munshi Faiz Ahmad and Director General AKM Abdur Rahman also spoke.