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Commonwealth trade push

New Delhi: India may host a Commonwealth trade hub as part of the group's bid to re-invent itself as a more focused body interested in promoting trade and investment in the post-Brexit era.

Commonwealth secretary-general Baroness Patricia Scotland, who is currently in the capital to hold talks with the Indian leadership ahead of the meeting of the group's heads of government, told The Telegraph, "We are thinking of a hub in India to promote trade and investment within the Commonwealth, especially among the MSMEs (medium and small enterprises)."

Intra-Commonwealth trade, which stood at $592 billion in 2013 and is estimated to touch $1 trillion in 2020, has been on the upswing because of what the Commonwealth secretariat describes as the "Commonwealth Advantage".

"We have calculated in a study conducted in 2015 that Commonwealth states have an advantage of 19 per cent over other countries when they trade with or invest in each other as they have a common language, mirrored procedures and regulatory systems and legal systems," Baroness Scotland pointed out.

"For example, the European Union has some 24 different legal systems in a group of 28 countries, whereas we have the same or similar legal systems in all the Commonwealth nations," she added.

The study commissioned by Scotland's predecessor, Kamlesh Sharma, said, "Econometric results suggest that when both bilateral partners are Commonwealth members, they tend to trade 20 per cent more, and generate 10 per cent more foreign direct investment than otherwise."

India has been focusing on its relationship with the Commonwealth after the UK decided to leave the EU and start work on its own network of trade ties post-Brexit. Since then there had been a flurry of visits by British ministers who have been trying to stitch together a bilateral free trade pact with India.

The Commonwealth nations now have a 45 per cent share in India's global trade, up 5 per cent in two years.

India's exports to the Commonwealth has come down to $56 billion in 2015 from $71 billion in 2013, while its imports, mostly of gold from Australian mines, have grown to $62 billion.

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