Wealthy Commonwealth countries urged to help poorer member countries improve infrastructure

November 29, 2007

Wealthy Commonwealth nations such as the UK should help poorer member states improve vital infrastructure facilities as one of the best ways to lift them out of poverty, a new University of Nottingham report says.

The report, 'Trading on Commonwealth Ties', produced by the Globalisation and Economic Policy Centre (GEP), which is based at The University of Nottingham, argues that investment in ports, rail and road facilities would make a substantial impact on exports and the strength of the economy in countries like Uganda, which is hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) from Friday 23rd November.

The report was commissioned by the Commonwealth Secretariat's Economic Affairs Division to suggest ways to boost trade between Commonwealth nations.

Author Professor Chris Milner said: "Arguably improving infrastructure is the most significant thing the Commonwealth can do to increase exports and imports between the partner nations. If you look at the roads and rail networks in many African countries you can see where the real barriers to trade lie.

"Our economic model shows that in a country like the host nation Uganda, a 10 per cent improvement in trade-related infrastructure would raise the volume of exports to other Commonwealth countries by about 62 per cent. These are large effects."

The 53 countries that make up the Commonwealth represent nearly one-third of the world's population, a quarter of the world's governments and one-fifth of all global trade.

The report values annual intra-Commonwealth exports of goods at more than $US225 billion. It estimates that the UK exports $31.7bn (£15.5bn) of goods a year to Commonwealth countries.

Professor Milner said: "The volume of trade taking place between Commonwealth nations shows that its value extends far beyond friendships and the Commonwealth Games. This trade is substantial. For a significant number of low-income and island economies, the Commonwealth is of considerable economic importance -- for some countries, like Botswana, Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Samoa, around three-quarters of their international trade is with fellow Commonwealth nations."

The report recommends that individual Commonwealth countries should negotiate favourable bi-lateral tariff deals between themselves, but warns against introducing a Commonwealth-wide free trade agreement in the near future.

Mr Ransford Smith, the Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, said: "This is a timely and significant study. While the Commonwealth comprises some of the major global trading partners from both developed and developing countries, a large number of countries from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions have lagged behind in trade growth and haven't benefited as might have been expected from the robust trends of recent years."

The situation -- he said -- calls for measures to address this challenge. "This study provides important information and perceptive analyses as well as practical recommendations."
Notes to editors:

Professor Chris Milner, the author of the report, is a Professor of International Economics. He is a research fellow at GEP - the Globalisation and Economic Policy Centre - and Head of the School of Economics at the University of Nottingham.

GEP - The Globalisation and Economic Policy Centre - is the major centre in Europe studying the impacts of globalisation and economic policy. One of the biggest of its kind in the world, the centre has an impressive international reputation, with its academics advising the Treasury, the OECD, the World Bank and the WTO. GEP is based at the University of Nottingham, and is substantially funded by grants from the Leverhulme Trust. In 2008 a branch of GEP will open at the University of Nottingham's Malaysia campus.

The University of Nottingham has strong links with the Commonwealth. It has a campus in Malaysia and around 2,300 of its students in the UK come from other Commonwealth countries. The University is Britain's University of the Year (The Times Higher Awards 2006). Its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since 2003. The University also has a campus in China.

More information and a research paper media briefing is available from Martin Stott, Bulletin PR, on +44 (0)115 922 8264, Mobile +44 (0)7956 917 978, mstott@bulletinpr.co.uk; or Media Relations Manager Tim Utton in the University of Nottingham's Communications Office on +44 (0)115 846 8092, tim.utton@nottingham.ac.uk.

University of Nottingham

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