The Commonwealth factor makes it up to 20 per cent easier to do business with other Commonwealth countries thanks to the common use of the English language and similar legal and commercial structures.
“The Commonwealth countries’ shared history and commonalities of language, law and business practice acts, other things being equal, should act as a major incentive to intra-Commonwealth trade and investment,” Philo Meli, who forms part of the CHOGM Business Forum, explained.
Malta’s trade with the 53 Commonwealth countries is significant – with the UK and Singapore being among the island’s major partners – reaching a total of €1.3 billion in 2014, up by €218 million from the 2013 level. Both imports and exports contributed to this increase.
At €942 million, imports from all Commonwealth countries in 2014 represented 15 per cent of the total, while sales of €403.9 million worth of goods from Malta made up 11 per cent of all exports.
Nevertheless, Ms Meli believes that there is a considerable untapped trade potential in the developing Commonwealth markets especially those in Africa and Asia.
“Maltese entrepreneurs are realising that they have to go beyond the EU and North Africa. For example, there are 18 African Commonwealth countries to tap – many of which are attracting considerable overseas investment mainly from China and Turkey. Whether a Maltese company is looking to introduce or export its products or services to a global audience, or to meet possible partners for joint ventures, this forum will be the right opportunity,” she said.
Economic growth in the Commonwealth has accelerated over the post-1973 period, in sharp contrast to the EU, where the growth rate has been falling from an average of 3.8 per cent in the 1970s to only 0.6 per cent in recent years.
There is a considerable untapped trade potential in the developing Commonwealth markets, especially those in Africa and Asia
“Commonwealth countries are diverse, young and dynamic. Population in the Commonwealth is expected to rise by 29.4 per cent over the 2015-2050 period, while the eurozone population is expected to fall by 1.4 per cent,” she pointed out.
“According to a recent study by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, emerging markets in Africa are enjoying unprecedented growth rates. The enthusiasm is no longer limited to South Africa. A steady flow of both private and public investment into the entire continent is gathering pace, to countries like Kenya, Tanzania, the Cameroon and Botswana.”
Malta is expecting top level private sector participation from all continents and a substantial number of Commonwealth Heads of Government are also expected to attend the Business Forum.
“The forum presents a unique opportunity for Maltese companies to interact with entrepreneurs, industrialists and senior government officials not just from the 53 Commonwealth countries but beyond. In fact, for the first time, this Business Forum has also attracted a good number of participants from EU countries including Italy, Austria, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland.
In addition, some 100 global business leaders and experts will address the forum on issues and areas such as infrastructure, financial services, technology, tourism, healthcare, maritime industry and sustainability.
The forum includes various opportunities for networking and business-to-business meetings. In fact, three weeks before the event, registered and accredited participants will be able to access the names of all other participants classified both by country and sector and an online system will also allow all registered participants to request individual meetings prior to the event.
The forum, being organised by a local task force in conjunction with the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, is particularly close to Maltese hearts as it was first held here in 2005, since then becoming a regular feature in all successive CHOGM events.
“Although we are not able to calculate the economic impact accurately, the 2005 event definitely gave Malta a lot of exposure,” Ms Meli said.
The event will be held at the Malta Hilton between November 24 and 26. The Business Forum Team may be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 2200 2839 or 2200 2835.