PM Lee to attend Commonwealth leaders summit in London


PM Lee arrives on April 18 for the two-day meeting, and will hold bilateral talks on the sidelines with other Commonwealth leaders.
PM Lee arrives on April 18 for the two-day meeting, and will hold bilateral talks on the sidelines with other Commonwealth leaders.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

LONDON - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) this week, 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 on Thursday (April 19), and the rest of the royal family will also take a leading role at the various forums held before the leaders' summit.

Britain last hosted Chogm in 1997.

PM Lee arrives on Wednesday (April 18) for the two-day meeting on Thursday 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 on Tuesday.

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.

But some have pointed out that Britain's trade with Commonwealth nations now lags far behind that with its European neighbours.

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, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and senior officials from the PMO, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Foreign Affairs Ministry.

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