I will revive free-trade agreement among Commonwealth countries – Foreign Affairs Minister

Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey 600x400

Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, has pledged to revive the Free-trade Agreement among Commonwealth countries if elected as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

She said a successful free-trade agreement among member states would enhance integration and participation in global and regional supply chains and boost their participation in the multilateral trading system.

The initiative could also be a model for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members for a synergic mix of regional and multilateral trade integration as the Organisation struggled to conclude agreements to ensure its revitalisation.

Madam Botchwey said this in Accra at a lecture on the topic: “A Vision for a New Commonwealth in a Fast-Evolving World.”

The lecture was organised by the Council on Foreign Relations Ghana to mark its Fifth Anniversary.

On February 2, 2024, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo nominated Mrs Botchwey for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth to succeed the current one, Madam Baroness Patricia Scotland, a dual Dominican-British citizen.

The Minister said the recent developments, including advanced negotiations between the United Kingdom and India, as well as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), had changed the dynamics and provided the opportunity to consolidate those agreements towards a Commonwealth-wide free trade agreement.

“To be transformative, any such trade and development agreement has to respond to the development needs and challenges of the developing countries in the Commonwealth,” she said.

Madam Botchwey urged development partners to scale up their aid for trade disbursements to enhance productive capacity.

She said it was imperative to have provisions that would encourage businesses from the developed

members to invest in the developing member states, with consideration given to the Pacific Island States, the Caribbean, and small states in both the service and non-service sectors.

“Developed Commonwealth members and other donor partners should maintain and enhance non-reciprocal preferential market access mechanisms like duty-free, quota-free, flexible rules of origin, and preferential treatment for services and service suppliers from small developing states to facilitate their integration in regional and global value chains,” she said.

The WTO, which regulated and promoted global trade, should channel enhanced aid for trade and viable investment in hard infrastructure to smaller states in the Commonwealth.

That, she noted, would help build their productive capacity to reverse their marginalisation in global trade.

“The Commonwealth should support the specific needs and concerns of small island states in fishery subsidy negotiations at the WTO.”

“Ocean sustainability in general and sustainable fishing stocks and practices are critical to the development of the ocean economy in island states and especially to the millions of mostly poor people who make their living by fishing.”

Services like health insurance, medical data, and banking, among others, provided the integration needed to create a consumer boom and greater prosperity, Madam Botchwey said.

The Commonwealth is an association of 56 countries working towards shared goals of prosperity, democracy and peace.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is the intergovernmental organisation, which co-ordinates and carries out much of the Commonwealth’s work, supported by a network of more than 80 organisations.

Among its objectives are to protect the environment and encourage sustainable use of natural resources on land and sea, boost trade and the economy, support democracy, government and the rule of law, and support small states, helping them to tackle the particular challenges they face.

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