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A Commonwealth Free Trade Area is neither likely nor desirable

Citation: Sanders, Sir Ronald (2012) A Commonwealth Free Trade Area is neither likely nor desirable. Commonwealth Opinion . pp. 1-12.

The idea of a Commonwealth Free Trade Area (FTA) which resurfaces from time to time is, argues Sir Ronald Sanders, ‘an idea whose time has long passed’. Born of a nostalgia for a time when Commonwealth countries enjoyed trade preferences with Britain (before it joined the EU in 1973), he explains that an FTA is neither politically possible nor desirable: it is not possible for the UK, Cyprus and Malta to join a formal Commonwealth trade arrangement unless they leave the EU, and the benefits of improved preferential access would be exploited by the major emerging economies. The Commonwealth’s 36 small states ‘would not get much of a look-in’. In this Opinion, Sir Ronald Sanders explains why the existence of a ‘Commonwealth factor’ – supposedly residing in English as a common language, similar laws and shared history – is doubtful. Instead, physical proximity, competitive prices and ease of transport explain higher levels of trade between (often neighbouring) Commonwealth countries. Instead, Sanders calls on Commonwealth Foreign Ministers to reconsider their recent decision not to convene a meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers, supported by an Expert Group, to consider the future of the post-Doha trading system (as proposed recently by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group). In this way, Sanders argues, the Commonwealth could be a catalyst for expanding world trade through rules that are fairer and more equitable.

Creators: Sanders, Sir Ronald and
Subjects: Economics
Divisions: Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Collections: Commonwealth Opinion Series
  • December 2012 (published)


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