This looks set to be an exciting week for the City of London, as today marks the start of CHOGM Week and its associated forums.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is a biennial meeting of world leaders from the 53 members of the Commonwealth, and for the first time in more than 30 years they are gathering here in London.
This presents a unique opportunity to celebrate all we share as members of the Commonwealth, as well as look at ways we can grow closer together and ensure continued business growth and prosperity.
I am particularly excited that the City of London Corporation will be co-hosting the Commonwealth Business Forum, which will bring together more than 1,000 delegates to participate in around 40 thematic sessions, to address how the private and public sectors can collaborate to drive increased trade, investment, and innovation.
Sessions will cover pressing issues such cyber security, expanding financial inclusion, facilitating infrastructure investment, and how to increase trade among the member nations. This final point is one I am keen to discuss, as the ambition is to see intra-Commonwealth trade and investment rise to over $1.5 trillion by 2020.
As the Commonwealth’s primary international financial centre, there are huge opportunities for the City of London to facilitate this trade and investment. We have unrivalled expertise in facilitating investment into developing nations, managing projects to ensure they are delivered on-time and on-budget, and unprecedented legal and business management clusters.
The UK is the world’s leading exporter of financial and professional services, with the City of London its beating heart. We hope to use this expertise to help all members as they invest for the future, from Nauru with its 10,000 citizens, to India with more than 1.3bn.
Working more closely with our friends and partners across the Commonwealth – with a collective population of more than 2.3bn – is a natural ambition as we look to expand our business links internationally. Refocusing on trade is also likely to produce some quick wins for businesses across the world, as trading within the Commonwealth is easier than with countries outside this family of nations.
We know that there is something special about the Commonwealth. Although the group does not yet have a multilateral trade agreement, intra-Commonwealth trade is 19 per cent cheaper due to similar legal and regulatory systems and a history of commerce and trade.
We should use this advantage to the benefit of the billions of citizens of the Commonwealth – the majority of whom are under 30 – who live across all six of the world’s inhabited continents.
I hope that we can use this week’s events to drive forward the City of London’s place as the Commonwealth’s financial centre.
However, because of the scale and security requirements of an event like this, if you live any work in the City you may see some traffic congestion over the next few days, despite our best efforts to limit the disruption to the Square Mile.
I am confident that growing closer to our friends across the Common-wealth will lead to a brighter and more prosperous future for us all.