The purpose of the Commonwealth is consultation and cooperation. The sovereign members retain full authority in all domestic and foreign affairs, although Britain generally enjoys a traditional position of leadership in certain matters of mutual interest. There are economic ties in the fields of trade, investment, and development programs for new nations. A set of trade agreements (begun at the Ottawa Conference in 1932) between Britain and the other members gave preferential tariff treatment to many raw materials and manufactured goods that the Commonwealth nations sell in Britain, but the system of preferential tariffs was abandoned after Britain's entry into the European Community (now the European Union) in 1973. Periodically there are meetings of Commonwealth heads of government, but no collective decision made at these meetings is considered binding. In 1965 a Commonwealth secretariat was established, with headquarters in London.
See also British Empire.
See J. D. B. Miller, The Commonwealth in the World (3d ed. 1965); N. Mansergh, The Commonwealth Experience (1969); W. R. Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East (1986); The Commonwealth Office Yearbook (annual, from 1987); R. J. Moore, Making the New Commonwealth (1987).
Written English as used in the Commonwealth generally favours British as opposed to American spelling, with the exception of Canada, which combines elements of both.
In linguistics, the main subdivisions of English are British and American English, with Canadian English being included in the latter. Therefore there isn't a single group of dialects that can be called “Commonwealth English” along linguistic lines.
Canadian English is a variety of (North) American English. It shares the same roots as the English of the United States because it is based on the immigration of British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution in the late eighteenth century. It is also influenced by Scottish, Irish and English immigration after the War of 1812. While the language has continued to change in all of these places, modern Canadian spelling has come to include elements of both (US) American and British spelling. It has also inherited much vocabulary from the shared political and social institutions of Commonwealth countries.
Second language varieties of English in Africa and Asia have often undergone "indigenisation"; that is, each English-speaking community has developed (or is in the process of developing) its own standards of usage, often under the influence of local languages. These dialects are sometimes referred to as New Englishes (McArthur, p. 36); most of them inherited non-rhoticity from Southern British English.
Southeast Asian English comprises Singapore English and Malaysian English; it features some influence from Chinese. Finally, in Hong Kong, which is no longer a Commonwealth country, English has nonetheless official status.