Saturday, 29 October 2011

Commonwealth Business Forum 2011

Commonwealth Business Forum 2011

Perth, Australia, 25th -27th October 2011

Partnering for Global Growth: The Commonwealth, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Rim

Communiqué and Report to Heads of Government (CHOGM)

The New Commonwealth

This has been the biggest and most vibrant Commonwealth Business Forum ever. Over 1400 business and government leaders from 54 countries participated over the three days, including 16 Heads of Government. 150 global business leaders and experts addressed the Forum and we held 20 country/state investment windows, including 6 led by Heads.

The CBF is a growing part of the CHOGM experience, evidence that trade, investment and economic partnerships are now part of the lifeblood of the new Commonwealth. In the words of Australia’s leading financial title, “a new kind of Commonwealth was on show” in the Perth CBF, which can aid the revival of the association and make it relevant to the modern world. We expect this “rebranding” will enhance the role and strength of the Commonwealth further.

We therefore ask Heads of Government to reshape the way the Commonwealth works and focus more on cooperation for trade and investment, jobs and growth to complement its work on good governance. CBC is willing to mobilise the Commonwealth private sector in this effort under the leadership of the incoming Commonwealth Chair in Office, the Prime Minister of Australia.

The Commonwealth and the Investment Climate

The business leaders and experts agreed that the majority of the Commonwealth - including developed as well as developing countries - are better placed than many to weather the current economic turbulence. Commonwealth countries are investment destinations of choice, have high governance and business standards. The World Bank and international agencies recognise that these standards continue to rise. It is important to maintain this momentum. Australia, as a successful developed economy and chair-in-office is in an excellent position to lead this Commonwealth effort.

Global Outlook

The attention of the business community is now on the overall health of the global economy. Economic forecasting is not the purpose of the CBF, but the dangers of a double dip recession in Europe and North America, with collateral damage to all emerging markets is real. At the same time, the underlying changes occurring in the global economy continue to point to a long and historic cycle of growth. 4-7% growth rates in emerging markets are now a long-term norm, part of the embedded structure of the new world economy.

While national and personal debt levels in many larger economies are high, one bright light is that globally, corporate balance sheets and reserves are in very good shape. This illustrates the importance of governments taking firm action to manage markets and fiscal systems to promote confidence, so that these capital resources can be used to invest in growth.

The opportunities for growth in the next century revolve around biotechnology, information technology, green growth and renewable energy. Governments need to work with the private sector, universities and civil society to harness technology to create sustainable growth.

Free Trade and Open Markets

We welcome the leadership of the Australian Government in committing to zero tariffs for emerging economies, and we urge leaders to explore ways in which bilateral and multi-country agreements can be advanced to promote growth.

Public Private Dialogue

The importance of dialogue between governments and business at a global and national level has never been greater. This is illustrated by the discussion of a number of key topics –climate change, infrastructure, and natural resources that remain fundamental to development in all economies. There is a declining trend line in available public funding. Private capital can take up the slack, but this requires a clear and predictable rate of return. This is a further example of how well managed public private partnerships are needed to facilitate investment.

The message to leaders is to stay the course to effectively manage globalisation for growth. We urge Heads of Government to focus on the following priorities: skills and education for jobs; access to finance for business growth; infrastructure development; support for SMEs; business friendly tax policies; tackle corruption and strengthen corporate governance.

The Commonwealth Regions

Africa is a new zone of economic development and growth, confidence and stability – poised to use its enormous resources to benefit hundreds of millions of its citizens.

This week’s discussions and investment sessions also reinforce the potential of an Indian Ocean economic zone – which can be built on over the next two CHOGMs in Sri Lanka and Mauritius. The ability of this region, including South Asia, to drive sustained growth is strong. Our sessions on Australia, Mauritius, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka demonstrate this.

The Pacific is perhaps the least known region in the world with special opportunities, and we are glad to have had a delegation from 8 Pacific countries with us. New joint programmes were agreed.

The link developed with Caribbean countries was further strengthened, creating new linkages with Australia and using the Caribbean as an entry point for the Americas. We confirm the importance of small states and islands to the business promotion work of the Commonwealth.

Actions and Results

At the Forum we launched a number of practical initiatives.

1. Mining: to complement the Australian Mining for Development Initiative announced this week, we established the Commonwealth Mining Network that will help to link the private sector to the needs of Commonwealth developing governments to manage their mining sectors more sustainably. We thank the companies and chambers that have agreed to support this.

2. Skills for Jobs and Careers: to strengthen public private partnerships on employment creation and careers, we are launching an initiative to link business-designed training with career opportunities for disadvantaged citizens across the Commonwealth. The Australian covenant for disadvantaged citizens is a promising model with its link between training and guaranteed employment. We invite interested Commonwealth governments to work with CBC to establish nationally tailored programmes based on this model.

3. Enterprise: SME development is at the heart of employment creation and sustainable growth. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Western Australia Chamber of Commerce have agreed with CBC to set up a programme with the Bank of Industry Nigeria and partners from the Pacific, India, and Africa to work with companies and governments to use their supply chains and other measures to support enterprise and the SME sector.

4. Women own up to 39% of private businesses in the formal economy but have not penetrated the global supply chain, are underrepresented on boards, and lack access to finance. CBC will work with the International Federation of Women Entrepreneurs and British Association of Women Entrepreneurs to establish a Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network to strengthen the overarching strategy for women in business around procurement and policy.

5. We were delighted to have with us more than 60 Chinese business leaders who joined us for the discussions on Commonwealth-China cooperation, and we had our first ever CBF sponsor from China – ICBC. We signed an MOU between CBC and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) to forge greater cooperation that will launch a Commonwealth-China business network.

6. We began a new cooperation between CBC and the Pacific Forum on Pacific trade and investment.

7. We established the Australia-Nigeria Trade and Investment Council. We believe that this is a good example of how the friendships and solid relationships of the Commonwealth can be used to develop economic cooperation. If the world stands still on trade and investment reform, the Commonwealth partners can still find ways to move ahead.

8. Sport: CBC will set up a group of leading Commonwealth companies to develop the ways that business can be more involved in using sport for economic growth and jobs.

9. The Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) and CBC will establish a Commonwealth IPA network to share best practice and improve links between IPAs. We will set up an e-platform network and work together in preparing for CBF 2013.

10. Improving Business: to increase ease of doing business the Forum endorses consideration of a Commonwealth business visa similar to APEC. The Forum received a presentation on a Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative, which was welcomed by business.

Finally, the deal flow discussed at this Forum is on track to deliver $10bn in new projects and investments over the next 6-9 months. We have been able to organise a large number of high-level meetings around the $100bn of projects in the CBF project exchange. We expect the thousands of 1-2-1 exchanges between delegates to lead to a healthy deal flow in 2012.

We would like to thank our more than 180 speakers and chairs of sessions, and once again express sincere thanks to Prime Minister Gillard and the Australian Government, Premier Colin Barnett and the Government of Western Australia for their support in hosting the meeting. We also express our appreciation to our Forum Steering Committee lead by John Denton and Mark Barnaba as well as each of the 50 organisations whose sponsorship made it possible, especially our principal sponsors ANZ, BP, Fortescue, Perdaman, Rio Tinto, and Woodside. A full list is annexed.

Commonwealth Business Council
Perth, Australia
27 October 2011

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