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Lord Flight: The Commonwealth? What does it mean to a Conservative? The Queen, the Commonwealth Games, or simply cricketing nations?

Lord Flight was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2001-2004 and led for the Opposition on the FSMA.  He is now chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund.

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 17.58.09Commonwealth Exchange (CX) will change your perception. It is a newly established foundation, which will be launched this Wednesday, to promote the potential of the Commonwealth and its citizens with a particular focus on trade, education and defence opportunities. It is headed by a young and energetic team not tainted by old preconceptions; and it is fortunate to have the author of Common-Trade, Common-Growth, Common-Wealth as its Executive Director. The team has a strong personal and political commitment to help nations trade their way out of poverty and lend a hand to lift individuals towards economic prosperity.

As a member of the CX Advisory Board, I support its efforts because it provides a 21st century opportunity for the Commonwealth. Throughout my working life in business, which has had strong links with India and other parts of Asia, I know that in an ever-more competitive world market, only highly flexible and adaptable global networks will withstand shocks and fast paced change. CX will seek to deliver this positive vision for the Commonwealth.

Its mantra is: Technology advances people and progress, while its overarching goal is to create a Commonwealth “brand” in which people can exchange, build upon and prosper. CX believes firmly that the Commonwealth operates more dynamically between individuals rather than governments. These linkages bring the diaspora of the Commonwealth together.

Regrettably, the UK has at times virtually abandoned the Commonwealth.  We have to thank the Queen for keeping the Commonwealth alive.  With the UK too preoccupied with its European neighbours, it would be wise and level headed foreign and economic policy to look further afield towards other economies that are advancing. CX will advocate for the Commonwealth on these terms.

The Commonwealth is a 54-nation club that consists of developed, developing, and emerging economies and spans all habitable continents. English is its lingua franca with common law and a commitment to democracy its notable features. The combined worth of Commonwealth GDP stands at $8.4 trillion and growing. Its projected annual total growth is 3.7 per cent and even higher in Africa and Asia. The Commonwealth also acts as a world time zone – always trading, always working.

CX’s prime focus is to support small and medium sized businesses by helping to generate a fertile and welcoming Commonwealth platform on which they can flourish. CX supports the free market, and a trade focused, Commonwealth that is currently an untapped and relatively unexplored area. Its assistance to commerce will be supplemented by a commitment to social action projects, which will promote greater unity and goodwill across a wide range of cultural and sporting activities. This will be complemented by rigorous research programmes into education, entrepreneurship, and defence to bolster critical thinking about the Commonwealth.

To give a flavour of its far reaching projects, CX will create trades exchanges, which are quick guides for SMEs looking to export to Commonwealth nations; it will play a part in the recognition of the Commonwealth sacrifice during the centenary of WWI; and campaign to give Commonwealth flags a more permanent home on Parliament Square, outside the Mother of All Parliaments.

Notwithstanding this exciting programme, CX will need support and assistance from Conservatives of all ranks. That is why I welcome the efforts of my colleague, Andrew Rosindell, who has set up a Conservative Commonwealth Association to help us reach out to what Lord Howell, the Commonwealth Minister 2010-12, calls "the Commonwealth from within the UK".

CX’s launch event takes place this Wednesday evening. For those wishing to learn more I warmly welcome people to contact [email protected] to register your place. I also recommend the Facebook page, following CX on Twitter and visiting its website. I look forward to realising the potential of Commonwealth Exchange and I urge businesses, investors, and philanthropists to back the CX project as I have done.


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