May tells of Com­mon­wealth’s new chal­lenges as China rises


Britain has de­clared the Com­mon­wealth faces new chal­lenges “around the world” in free trade, se­cu­rity and demo­cratic val­ues as it pre­pares to leave the Euro­pean Union and China’s power rises in tra­di­tional ar­eas of Bri­tish in­flu­ence.

Open­ing the Com­mon­wealth Busi­ness Fo­rum in Lon­don’s Guild­hall on the first day of the Com­mon­wealth Heads of Gov­ern­ment Meet­ing, Theresa May set the cen­tral theme of the meet­ing as “strength­en­ing the Com­mon­wealth ad­van­tage”.

The Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter wants the Com­mon­wealth to use its ex­ist­ing di­verse 53-coun­try mem­ber­ship to pro­mote freer trade, eco­nomic growth and de­fend “the rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der”.

“Freer, eas­ier trade means stronger economies, more jobs, more choice and lower prices — and that is true here in the UK, across the Com­mon­wealth and around the world,” Ms May said.

For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop has al­ready said the Lon­don CHOGM is an op­por­tu­nity to strengthen the role of the Com­mon­wealth in pro­mot­ing freer trade as well as coun­ter­ing Chi­nese in­flu­ence in Africa, Asia and the South Pa­cific where there has been tra­di­tional Bri­tish in­flu­ence.

As Britain pre­pares to leave the EU and ne­go­ti­ate its own trade agree­ments with na­tions in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, there is a strong push to use the diver­sity of the Com­mon­wealth mem­ber­ship and com­mit­ment to demo­cratic val­ues as a ba­sis for a new sphere of in­flu­ence.

Mrs May said: “With its unique scope and global voice, such a Com­mon­wealth can set a pow­er­ful ex­am­ple to the world, one that demon­strates and un­der­lines the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing free trade and the rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der.

“I hope you take the chance to share ideas and in­sights, to iden­tify new chal­lenges and new op­por­tu­ni­ties, to high­light where Com­mon­wealth gov­ern­ments can step up and do more and even where, per­haps, we should step back and do a lit­tle less,” she said.

Mal­colm Turn­bull, who ar­rived in Lon­don overnight, wants to use CHOGM and later trips to Ber­lin and Brus­sels to pro­mote free trade, es­pe­cially af­ter Brexit, and se­cu­rity.

Prince Harry, the newly ap­pointed Com­mon­wealth Youth Am­bas­sador, in his open­ing speech said the Com­mon­wealth

‘To tackle a big chal­lenge, you need to fo­cus on the root causes, not the symp­toms’ PRINCE HARRY YOUTH AM­BAS­SADOR

had a great op­por­tu­nity for change given its com­mon links be­tween “nearly 2½ bil­lion peo­ple”.

The prince said young peo­ple could play a part “in tack­ling some of the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing Com­mon­wealth cit­i­zens to­day”.

“The young adults I have met across the Com­mon­wealth have shown me time and again that your gen­er­a­tion un­der­stands some­thing very im­por­tant: that to tackle a big chal­lenge, you need to fo­cus on the root causes, not the symp­toms — some­thing my fa­ther has be­lieved for years, yet some­thing so­ci­ety still strug­gles with,” he said.


Mal­colm and Lucy Turn­bull visit their new­est grand­son, Ro­nan, at a stopover in Sin­ga­pore

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