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Le modèle économique anglo-saxon à l’épreuve de la globalisation

Martine Azuelos

The Commonwealth as an instrument of globalization

Rickie Moore


Après avoir présenté le Commonwealth comme instrument historique de la globalisation, cet article insiste sur les liens qui subsistent aujourd'hui encore entre la Grande-Bretagne et les Etats autrefois placés sous sa domination. Certes le rôle et le poids économique de cette institution se sont affaiblis avec l'adhésion de la Grande-Bretagne au Marché commun, mais cette évolution n'a guère entamé la force des liens culturels qui unissent ses membres. C'est aussi par son biais que s'effectue pour l'essentiel la coopération scientifique et technique entre la Grande-Bretagne et le Tiers Monde. Il est enfin significatif de relever que la Grande-Bretagne accueille actuellement une grande partie des IDE originaires des pays développés du Commonwealth.

Texte intégral

1This paper presents the unique association of independent sovereign States known as the Commonwealth as an instrument of globalization. In the three parts of this discussion, I will first of all attempt to broadly define globalization and illustrate some of its concepts and current practices. Secondly, I will introduce the Commonwealth, outline its historical development and highlight what I believe to be some key aspects which are perhaps the unifying force of the association. Finally I will demonstrate the global potential of the Commonwealth, its globalizing (economic) operations and signal some of the likely repercussions of the process.


  • 1 Collins English Dictionary, 1979, p. 55.
  • 2 Chambers Concise Dictionary, 1990, p. 410.

2Given the genericity of the term Anglo-Saxon — English speaking or of English descent1, the notion of an Anglo-Saxon economic model is certainly thought provoking. For the purpose of this paper however, the term Anglo-Saxon is being restricted to the context of England. In elucidating the word 'globalization', the Chambers Concise Dictionary2, offers a rather descriptive concept — that of a movement towards or affecting the whole world, the process of being everywhere in the world, a process of being universal. The meaning of globalization as mentioned above, its root word 'globe' and its adjective 'globalized' ascertain that globalization is more than internationalization. In terms of synonyms of the word 'global', the word 'world-wide' is quite appropriate. If we are to attach the suffix 'ation' or 'ing' to the word 'world-wide', globalization would become a synonym of 'world-widation' or 'world-widing'. Indeed, this is a pivotal perspective which I would like to use in developing this discussion.

3Cogitating within this perspective, we can conclude that the principle and practice of globalization is nothing new. We can recognise however that its existence as a process or as an ideal has gained and is gaining new and more importance nowadays. Today, we speak of a global economy, global competition, a global village, a global rule, global governance, global trends and prospects, global tensions, a global approach, global institutions and agreements, global marketing and global strategies, global quotas and a global system of trade preferences, etc., all of which share different and similar connotations of the word global. In a somewhat seemingly unrelated context, we also speak of global warming for its effects are felt everywhere in the world.

  • 3 R. Robertson, Social Theory and Global Culture, London: Sage, 1992, p. 173.
  • 4 J.-C. Usunier, International Marketing: A Cultural Approach, New York: Prentice Hall, 1993, p. 169

4One facet of economic globalization is the satisfaction of global needs through glocal supplies and the implicit translocation of infrastructure, assets, goods and services. A necessary prerequisite to this facet and to globalization itself is the process and practice of internationalization (partial globalization) which has always existed. From the beginning of time, individuals, social groups, institutions and governments have always practised internationalization and some have actually attained the status of a globalized existence, i.e. being globally or universally ubiquitous in the true macrocosmic sense of the word. The industrial revolution dramatically changed the world and industrial capital boosted the globalizing movement. We can identify the automobile, banking, communication, electronics, and the pharmaceutical industries as being among the many examples of real macrocosmic globalization. They can be found everywhere in the world. But for many however, the word globalization itself is primarily synonymous with the promotion of liberalized international exchange, the search for, creation of and entry into new overseas markets, more exports as opposed to imports, glocalization3 and the subsequent advancement in economic prosperity. Another illustrative interpretation of globalization is offered by Usunier4, who describes globalization as world-wide or universal homogenization.

  • 5 J.H. Dunning, Multinational Enterprises and the Global Economy, Wokingham: Addison-Wesley, 1993, p (...)

5Britain, like the other powerful nations and governments at the time, sought to obtain its economic advancement essentially by its global outreach. Three predominant methods were used; colonisation, immigration and trade with the new territories5. Military might and industrial and economic supremacy were the keys to the economic development of the powerful nations as they endeavoured to control the world. In effect, these countries created their own empires, realms and spheres of influence and investment for themselves. We can observe today that these methods of economic advancement are still being practised though in reformed variations and combinations (MNCs, MNEs, MNIs, FTAs, tariff reduction agreements, deregulation, joint-ventures, economic integration, etc.).

6Britain also did something which other former world powers failed to do. It alone was able to create its 'own world', the Commonwealth, and practiced 'microcosmic globalization'. Microcosmic because the Commonwealth group of countries is truly a miniature world with many different peoples, cultures, languages, etc., an entity in itself, and globalization because:

  • Britain universally 'developed' the economies of and the links with her former colonies and territorial possessions by the translocation of the British culture, institutions and structures, all of which have endured the transformation of these colonies into new nation status, and,
  • the number of countries which are involved is very significant and constitutes the second largest grouping of countries, after the United Nations, with common economic interests in the world today. This is an exclusively unique aspect of the affiliation.


7What we know as the Commonwealth today is the existence of new phase in the evolution of the former British Empire. It is just over 30 years old, has no charter, treaty, nor constitution, but its history and its roots are about five times as old. Over the last three centuries, Britain's position and strength as a world power has been dominated by its overseas territorial possessions and trade. Britain has directly controlled or exercised its influence on about 1/4 of the world throughout the ages. However, with the advent of the dismantling of the British Empire by nation building, Britain developed a coalition with its former colonies and territories, which in many ways allowed it to maintain its role as a world leader and to continue defending its interests. This was perhaps a clear attempt at retaining and ensuring that it had some form of global control based on its geopolitical ambitions.

  • 6 Paths to Independence: Britain and the Emergence of New Nations.

8The origins of this voluntary association date back to the eighteenth century. At this time Britain had owned and controlled almost one third of the world, and by the end of the century, had begun losing some of it. The roots of the Commonwealth have been traced to a report by Lord Durham in 1839, who was sent by HM's government to assess and report on the situation in Canada. Some sixty years earlier, the former British North American territories had revolted and seceded from Britain to form what we now know as the USA. Britain was afraid that the Canadian colonies which were unhappy and discontented, might react in the same way as the British North American territories did. In his report to HM's government, Lord Durham proposed that the Canadian colonies be allowed to operate a system of' responsible government'6. This idea was accepted and Australia, New Zealand, South Africa along with Canada became Dominions of the British Empire.

  • 7 Commonwealth Yearbook 1993-94.

9In 1926, at the Imperial conference in London, the territorial possessions and colonies of Britain were renamed the British Commonwealth of Nations. Notably, at this time, a new movement — nation building, was in full swing. A few years later, the former dominions were granted independence, the King of England was still regarded as their Head-of-State, and India, the largest colony was pushing for its independence. The turning point came when India on becoming a republic expressed its desire to remain a member of the Commonwealth7. In the 1950s and 60s, the dismantling of the former British Empire which had survived through two world wars, was almost complete. The dawn of the 1950s and 60s was the sunset of colonisation for all the world power brokers like the UK, Spain, Italy, france, Holland, etc., and the risk of them losing some or all of their former exclusive markets.

10The Commonwealth, an alliance of Governments and peoples, has no international legal mandate and its flexible construction is possibly an example for post-cold war development as each member country has the right to choose its own destiny and direction in the world. The Commonwealth also provides a bridge for bilateral and multilateral cooperation among its members, and serves to bring its peoples together by mutual agreement on certain principles and by the common implementation of adopted resolutions. In terms of global peace, several Commonwealth countries are among the top contributors to the United Nations' efforts around the world.

  • 8 The Cyprus Communiqué, 10/93, p. 17.

11Today, 51 countries are members of the Commonwealth. This global family has 30 republics, 5 countries have their own national monarchs, and all of them accept the Queen of England as the symbol of their free association and as the head of the Commonwealth. The Queen of England is also the head of 15 Commonwealth countries. This global family is also growing, for Cameroon has applied for membership. Approval of its application is likely at the next Commonwealth Heads-of-Government meeting scheduled to be held from the 10th - 13th of November 1995, in Auckland, New Zealand, provided 'that its current efforts to establish a democratic System, in keeping with the Harare Commonwealth declaration would have been completed'8. There are several observer countries including Mozambique, that may or may not eventually apply for membership. But in 1997, the Commonwealth will loose a member as Hong Kong (and its 5.8 M people), one of Britain’s 15 dependent territories, will be returned to China.

  • 9 A. Marwick, Britain in the Century of Total War, Penguin, 1968, p. 416.

12In September 1962, the former American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, said in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, "Great Britain has lost its Empire, and has not yet found a role"9. He was wrong. Simply put, Britain did indeed find itself a global role for the new Commonwealth was about to be born, and the vestiges of imperial relations were not to be completely rejected, but rather downplayed.

13If Britain's economic and political influences over the Commonwealth are not what they used to be it is because they have been overtaken by social, cultural and above all sentimental influences. Every year, the Queen of England distributes royal and imperial awards, knighthood's and peers to chosen citizens of the Commonwealth. The Privy Council in London is the highest court of appeal for most members of the Commonwealth and some leading Commonwealth judges have the distinct privilege of being invited to serve in the council. Certain sports like cricket and rounders are played mainly in the Commonwealth, and as opposed to the British Empire Games, the Commonwealth games is held every four years (the 26th Commonwealth Games will be held in 1998). There is an annual official Commonwealth day which is celebrated in each Commonwealth country and the Queen usually broadcasts a special message to the Commonwealth. In addition, the Queen and other members of the royal family travel extensively throughout the Commonwealth. The British Foreign Ministry is known as the Foreign and Commonwealth office, and diplomatic representatives exchanged by Commonwealth countries are called High Commissioners and are equal in status to Ambassadors.


14The growth of an interdependent world economy is an important factor for all nations. If we describe the solar System as the ring around the sun, then the Commonwealth is the ring around the globe. From the antarctic territories of Australia and Britain (the British one is uninhabited) to Canada, from the shores of the Pacific to the Caribbean, including India and across Africa, the people of the Commonwealth constitute more the one quarter of the world's population, and cover one quarter of the world's surface. At one time, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Aden, The Gulf States, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Burma were all members of the Commonwealth which is unrivalled and the only existing structure of this magnitude and kind in the world. The Commonwealth contains some of the world's richest and poorest countries, the smallest and the largest countries, 1 continent, 1/2 of another and 1 sub-continent. (See Figure 1). Commonwealth members are located on every continent and also belong to most major economic blocs and regional pacts.

  • 10 "Sun Sets on Colonial Links", International Management, 1992, p. 66.
  • 11 D. McDowall, Britain in Close-Up, London: Longman, 1993, p. 156.

15The Commonwealth is rich and well ranked in world resources, and has leaders in several key commodities and crops. Alone it accounts for more than half the world’s exports in cocoa, rubber, tea, bauxite, nickel, etc., and almost all the UK’s sugar comes from its former colonies10. In terms of education, half of the overseas students population of Britain's universities are from Commonwealth countries and ex-dependencies of Britain, despite the very expensive tuition fees which they are required to pay11. There are also mutual agreements between Commonwealth universities which seek to promote the educational and scientific development of the Commonwealth citizens.

  • 12 Commonwealth Skills for the 1990s, pp. 4-5.
  • 13 Britain 1995: An Official Handbook, p. 114.

16The Commonwealth boasts a market of 1.5 billion people. What a sizeable market! But that's not all. Economic globalization is not just about dominance of markets, it is also about creating and developing global potential, global tastes and global demands and the more developed members of the Commonwealth can do so fairly easily within the association. When considering worldwide economic development and the fast growing economies, several Commonwealth members top the list. 47 of the 51 countries are classified as developing countries and 17 have a GNP of less than $500 per head12. The Commonwealth contains about 30% of the population of the developing world and some 66% of Britain's gross bilateral aid goes to the Commonwealth developing countries and to Britain's dependent territories13.

3.1. Globalizing Operations of the Commonwealth

17At the hub of the web of the many Commonwealth institutions are the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC) which are headquartered in London. The Commonwealth has its own teams of specialists for political, economic and legal affairs, human resources development and technical assistance. It provides expertise and the transmission of skills, advice and training to member countries in need. Main areas of development for the Commonwealth include international and economic affairs, trade policies for developing member countries, export market development, rural and industrial development, financial affairs, inter-governmental co-operation, education, science and technology.

  • 14 Britain and the Commonwealth, 12/93, p. 8.

18The Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) was created in 1948 and it works at the local level in the member countries (local private sector, international aid organizations and local interests) in order to fund investments in these countries. Nearly three quarters of all the CDC's investments are in Commonwealth and are generally targeted to renewable natural resources (agriculture, forestry and fisheries) and basic infrastructure (power, water, telecommunications, housing and transport). By 1990, the CDC had committed £709.2 M to primary education and processing, £414.6 M to basic development and £324.6 M to industry and commerce — a total of £1 448.4 M14.

3.2. Trade and Aid

19Britain is very highly ranked among the largest trading nations and is also one of the biggest overseas investors. Britain's overseas investments in the Commonwealth range from being wholly owned, majority or minority-owned to the unknown and is centred on the manufacturing, low-technology and services sectors; Chemicals, electrical, mechanical and instrument engineering, motor vehicles, rubber, food, drink and tobacco, metal manufacture, textiles, clothing and footwear, paper, printing and publishing, building materials, alcohol, and hotels. Trade statistics for the period 1958 - 67, the glory years of the Commonwealth and before Britain's membership of the EU, show that Britain's exports to and imports from the Commonwealth:

  • way out-performed the non-Commonwealth sterling area (3-4 times),
  • doubled and tripled that with the Common Market before almost equalizing,
  • doubled the EFTA figures.
  • 15 J.M. Livingstone, Britain and the World Economy, Pelican, 1966, p. 94.

20Other European countries and Soviet Eastern Europe accounted for no more than one-tenth of the Commonwealth trade figures, the US for about 50%, Latin America 18% and other countries up to about 30%15 (See figures 2 and 3).

  • 16 M. Lynn, "Home to Mother", International Management, May 1992, p. 68.

21By 1992, nearly 30 years later, trade with the Commonwealth countries accounted for only 10% of Britain's trade figures16.

22From helping to develop open cast coal mining and slum improvement in India to the installation of water supply and waste disposal Systems in Ghana, from the construction of the Dhaka power station in Bangladesh to promoting sustainable development projects in Nigeria, Britain has contributed enormously to the development of the Commonwealth. Britain also provides interest free loans which are repayable over four to five years to member countries, many of which naturally have debt problems. Britain urges them to adopt very prudent economic policies and has offered them debt relief in many ways including writing off some of their debts.

3.3. Technical Co-operation

  • 17 Britain and the Commonwealth, 12/93, p. 20.
  • 18 Ibid., p. 9.

23Regarded as complementary to financial aid are the transfer of specialised knowledge and skills and the provision of technology and maintenance support to member countries. The transfer agreements also include the military sector (supply of military hardware, testing of weapons, joint/combined exercises and training)17. Commonwealth governments have at their disposition, upon request, experts in just about all domains, e.g. economic planning, agriculture, the environment, public administration, etc. The Commonwealth Secretariat administers a Fellowship and Training Programme for Commonwealth citizens. It runs a Technical Assistance Division, an Industrial Development Unit, and an Export Market Development Division which promotes the exports of commodities and manufactures through market surveys, trade fairs and missions. Member countries are also offered assistance with product modification, design, packaging and standards, and trade negotiations18.

  • 19 Ibid., p. 10.

24Crown Agents located in almost each Commonwealth country provide a wide range of services to the host government which includes the purchasing, inspection and shipment of materials, supervision and the management of supplies, agricultural and engineering projects, advice on financial management and investment, recruitment, and the provision of basic and specialised training19.

  • 20 Ibid., p. 18.

25The Commonwealth telecommunications network ranks among the largest Systems in the world, both internationally and commercially. In 1984, it inaugurated one of the world's largest submarine telephone cables which runs over 15,000 km between Australia, Norfolk Island, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii and Canada20.

26And there’s more to the globalness of the Commonwealth. Attendance by Heads-of-States averages 75%-90% at all Heads-of-Government meetings and unilaterally they seek to promote and develop global issues:

  • the establishment of a new Global Humanitarian Order,
  • democracy,
  • human rights and rule of law,
  • peace and world order,
  • environmental protection.

27In conclusion, today the Commonwealth is a 'new body'. Its name has changed with the times. Its role and importance are being questioned and have been weakened by the evolution of the global economic environment. Trade today is by strategic co-operation, alliances and co-optation (Ohmae, 1994). Although economically challenged by economic and trading conditions imposed on Britain because of its membership of the EU and which are defeating to the Commonwealth countries, the Commonwealth still holds its ground. Britain is caught in a spaghetti junction, a maze of international cross roads. It’s a member of several strategic pacts and organisations which are not all complementary and often conflictory. Nations are protecting their economies more and more. The Commonwealth is not an economically powerful affiliation and its members stand to loose more by being outside the association than within it.

  • 21 Lynn, op. cit., p. 68.

28Today, the members of the Commonwealth can benefit from a very important toehold, foothold, or a bridgehead in the international and European arena by virtue of their links with Britain. They have access to and are standing on the launching-pad and spring-board to Europe, they are demonstrating their willingness to jump and are jumping. While some former colonies have been unable to capitalise on their old ties others have. Lynn21 chose to highlight some of the jumps and achievements made in recent times by some individuals and firms of Commonwealth member countries using Britain as their bridgehead:

  • In June 1991, a Hong Kong billionaire, Hutchinson Whampoa, bought the Felixstowe Dock & Railway Company. He also established Hutchinson Telecom which owns a 65% stake in the UK. Hutchinson Telecom operates cellular phones and paging Systems and plans to invest up to £1 B in the European market. So far, it has bought ABC Telekom, a German mobile telecommunications company.
  • Britain's fourth-largest clearing bank, Midland Bank was bought by the Hongkong and Shanghai bank.
  • Australian companies Elders IXL (brewers) and TNT (the distribution giant) have set-up business in the UK. In fact the UK has attracted the bulk of Australian investment in Europe.
  • Commonwealth governments, in an effort to stimulate trade are developing an interface (network) of Commonwealth business organisations which will match Commonwealth suppliers and buyers and enhance the sharing of skills and resources (Commonwealth Information).

29These are perhaps the strongest signals that there is a revival of the ties that bind Britain to the Commonwealth. Maybe, Britain has not done too bad for itself. Its former children are helping their mother out in times of need. Alternatively, some may see the current situation as "the Empire strikes back"!!

Figure 1: The Commonwealth

Figure 1: The Commonwealth

Taken from Britain 1995, An Official Handbook, p. 113

Figure 2: UK annual Imports 1958-1967 (c.i.f.)

Figure 2: UK annual Imports 1958-1967 (c.i.f.)

Based on figures from Arthur Marwick (1968), Britain in the Century of Total War: War, Peace and Social Change, 1900-1967, Penguin, p. 94

Figure 3: UK Annual Exports 1958-1967 (f.o.b.)

Figure 3: UK Annual Exports 1958-1967 (f.o.b.)

Based on figures from Arthur Marwick (1968), Britain in the Century of Total War: War, Peace and Social Change, 1900-1967, Penguin, p. 94



Britain 1995: An Official Handbook, London: HMSO, 1995.

Britain and the Commonwealth, London: Central Office of Information, December 1993.

Collins English Dictionary, London: Collins, 1979.

Chambers Concise Dictionary, Edinburgh: Chambers, 1990.

Commonwealth Skills for the 1990s, London: Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, 1993.

Commonwealth Information, "The Commonwealth and the Development Challenge", Address by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kuala Lumpur 9/10/91.

Commonwealth Yearbook 1993-94, London: HMSO, 1994.

Dunning, John H., Multinational Enterprises and the Global Economy, Wokingham: Addison-Wesley, 1993.

Dunning, John H. (editor), Multinational Enterprises, Economic Structure and International Competitiveness, Chichester: Wiley, 1985.

Dunning, John H., The Globalizing of Business, London: Routledge, 1993.

Global Strategies: Insights from World's Leading Thinkers, Harvard Business Review, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1994.

Livingstone, J. M., Britain and the World Economy, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Pelican, 1966.

Lynn, Matthew, "Home to Mother", International Management, May 1992.

Marwick, Arthur, Britain in the Century of Total War: War, Peace and Social Change, 1900-1967, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1968.

Mcdowall, David, Britain in Close-Up: An in-depth study of the changing face of contemporary Britain, London: Longman, 1993.

Ohmae, Kenichi, "The Global Logic of Strategic Alliances" in Global Strategies: Insights from World's Leading Thinkers, Harvard Business Review, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1994.

Paths to Independence: Britain and the Emergence of New Nations, London: Central Office of Information 205/RP/83 7(b).

Robertson, Roland, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, London: Sage, 1992.

Segal-Horn, Susan (Editor), The Challenge of International Business, London: Kogan Page, 1994.

Stopford, John M., and Turner, Louis, Britain and the Multinationals, Chichester: Wiley, 1985.

"Sun Sets on Colonial Links", International Management, May 1992.

The Cyprus Communiqué October 1993, Commonwealth Secretariat, 1993.

Thomson, David, England in the Twentieth Century, Middlesex: Pelican, 1965.

Usunier, Jean-Claude, International Marketing: A Cultural Approach, New York: Prentice Hall, 1993.

Vernon, Raymond, Storm over the Multinationals: The Real Issues, London: Macmillan, 1979.


1 Collins English Dictionary, 1979, p. 55.

2 Chambers Concise Dictionary, 1990, p. 410.

3 R. Robertson, Social Theory and Global Culture, London: Sage, 1992, p. 173.

4 J.-C. Usunier, International Marketing: A Cultural Approach, New York: Prentice Hall, 1993, p. 169.

5 J.H. Dunning, Multinational Enterprises and the Global Economy, Wokingham: Addison-Wesley, 1993, p. 96.

6 Paths to Independence: Britain and the Emergence of New Nations.

7 Commonwealth Yearbook 1993-94.

8 The Cyprus Communiqué, 10/93, p. 17.

9 A. Marwick, Britain in the Century of Total War, Penguin, 1968, p. 416.

10 "Sun Sets on Colonial Links", International Management, 1992, p. 66.

11 D. McDowall, Britain in Close-Up, London: Longman, 1993, p. 156.

12 Commonwealth Skills for the 1990s, pp. 4-5.

13 Britain 1995: An Official Handbook, p. 114.

14 Britain and the Commonwealth, 12/93, p. 8.

15 J.M. Livingstone, Britain and the World Economy, Pelican, 1966, p. 94.

16 M. Lynn, "Home to Mother", International Management, May 1992, p. 68.

17 Britain and the Commonwealth, 12/93, p. 20.

18 Ibid., p. 9.

19 Ibid., p. 10.

20 Ibid., p. 18.

21 Lynn, op. cit., p. 68.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: The Commonwealth
Légende Taken from Britain 1995, An Official Handbook, p. 113
Fichier image/jpeg, 579k
Titre Figure 2: UK annual Imports 1958-1967 (c.i.f.)
Légende Based on figures from Arthur Marwick (1968), Britain in the Century of Total War: War, Peace and Social Change, 1900-1967, Penguin, p. 94
Fichier image/jpeg, 158k
Titre Figure 3: UK Annual Exports 1958-1967 (f.o.b.)
Légende Based on figures from Arthur Marwick (1968), Britain in the Century of Total War: War, Peace and Social Change, 1900-1967, Penguin, p. 94
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k

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