PM Lee to attend biennial Commonwealth meeting

He will also hold bilateral talks with leaders of other states in the grouping while in London

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be in London this week for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), a biennial summit that most of the 53 leaders of the Commonwealth nations are expected to attend.

This year's meeting is likely to be the last for Queen Elizabeth II, the 91-year-old head of the Commonwealth, who is winding back on long-haul travel. She will host a dinner for leaders at Buckingham Palace tomorrow. Britain last hosted Chogm in 1997.

PM Lee arrives today for the two-day meeting that takes place tomorrow and Friday, and will hold bilateral talks on the sidelines with other Commonwealth leaders.

At Chogm, the top government leaders are expected to discuss global and regional issues of concern and review developments in the Commonwealth, said the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in a statement yesterday.

The theme for this year's meeting is "Towards a Common Future", and meetings and forums will touch on issues ranging from human rights and democracy to trade and investment, as well as climate change, terrorism and cybercrime.

Although the Commonwealth has focused on development and democracy, British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to make a pitch during the meeting for greater trade with the historic network of countries, as Britain prepares to exit the European Union under Brexit.

The Commonwealth, a voluntary organisation made up of Britain and countries with past links to the British Empire, is home to 2.4 billion people. The combined gross domestic product of Commonwealth countries is estimated at US$10.4 trillion (S$13.6 trillion) last year, and predicted to reach US$13 trillion in 2020. An analysis by the Commonwealth Trade Review has found that trading costs between Commonwealth countries are on average 19 per cent less than between non-member countries.

Mr Lee will be accompanied by Mrs Lee, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and senior officials from the PMO, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In conjunction with Mr Lee's visit, Singapore and Britain signed an agreement on cyber security capacity building yesterday, which will see both countries provide cyber security capacity-building programmes to Commonwealth member nations for a two-year period beginning in September this year.

In addition, Britain will actively participate in Singapore's Asean Cyber Capacity Programme launched in 2016, said the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore yesterday.

The agreement was signed by Dr Balakrishnan and Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang will be Acting Prime Minister during Mr Lee's absence from today to Saturday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2018, with the headline 'PM Lee to attend biennial Commonwealth meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe