Commonwealth Minister quizzed on UK trade with Commonwealth

Andrew at our launch event

Andrew at our launch event

Our Advisory Board member Andrew Rosindell MP has been quizzing the UK Commonwealth Minister. Yesterday he questioned Hugo Swire MP on "what action he is taking to develop the UK's trading relationship with other Commonwealth countries."

He responded:

"The UK is committed to strengthening trade across the Commonwealth. UK Trade and Investment is helping strengthen trade links with markets across the world that are key to the UK's future prosperity and is now represented in 22 Commonwealth countries. These include high growth markets such as India, Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia and others such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where we already have significant and well established trading relations. We are also working hard to ensure the EU signs ambitious Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Commonwealth countries to improve the access of UK companies to these markets. The EU has a Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement with South Africa, while negotiations on FTAs with Canada and Singapore reached a political conclusion last year. The EU/Canada Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement [our piece on this here] will benefit the UK economy and businesses by over £1.3 billion a year. EU negotiations are also ongoing with India and Malaysia.

Ahead of this year's Commonwealth games in Glasgow, UKTI, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and the Commonwealth Business Council are working together to deliver a business conference for 200 Commonwealth business leaders. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) are also organising a British Business House, which will showcase UK plc to Commonwealth businesses.

As the Minister of State for the Commonwealth, I spoke at the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) in Colombo [at which the Secretary General also welcomed CX], which took place ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, to highlight the Commonwealth's potential for increased trade and investment. UKTI sent a representative to the CBF to support British businesses.

We welcome the appointment of Lord Marland of Odstock as Chair of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC). We expect his appointment will help the CBC work towards increased trade and investment across the Commonwealth."

British success story in Singapore


The UK company Serious Games has enjoyed success in Singapore with help from UKTI. They have won projects from "both public and private sector clients, including a contract worth £250,000 with the Ministry of Health." Having decided that South East Asia was to be their target market, they picked Singapore for their regional hub due to our strong connections. Their Managing Director commented:

Singapore was a good fit for us. They share the same language and regulatory systems as the UK and have strong IP protection mechanisms

As UKTI point out in their case study: "Singapore is the UK’s 12th largest export market of goods outside the EU and the sixth largest for services. Many UK firms use Singapore as an entry point into South East Asia and as a result over 700 UK firms have a presence there, with around 250 establishing their Regional HQ’s in Singapore."

Good news for UK-Pakistan trade

Britain and Pakistan
Britain and Pakistan

In the pre-Christmas rush, it was easy to miss a couple of bits of good news regarding the UK's trade with Pakistan. The first came with the EU Parliament voting for the Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) for Pakistan. This came into force yesterday.

While  it may sound bureaucratic and confusing, it has the potential to provide a major boost to trade between the UK and Pakistan. In simple terms it provides improved EU market access and duty-and quota-free access for almost all of Pakistan's exports. Pakistan stands to gain an estimated $500 million and 1 million new jobs from this agreement.

Baroness Warsi, the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Pakistan said:

These trade preferences will provide substantial benefits for Pakistan’s economy, bringing sustainable growth and jobs. The vote is also a further sign of a deeper and more effective relationship that benefits both the UK and Pakistan.

This move is something the UK has been pushing for over several years and it's great to see it come in to force. It shows that, even though the UK cannot forge its own trade deals within the EU, it should still do all it can to promote Commonwealth free trade as it did in leading the charge for the EU-Canada trade deal.

This was followed by the 2nd annual UK/Pakistan Trade and Investment Conference in London. Speaking at the Conference, the new UK Minister for Trade and Investment Lord Livingston said:

Pakistan and the UK have a close relationship and trade is at the heart of this relationship - Britain is the top European destination for exports from Pakistan. We are working together to deepen our partnership for the long-term and our Prime Ministers have set us an ambitious target to boost bilateral trade to £3bn by 2015.

The Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, Mr Wajid Shamsul Hasan agreed saying:

Historically, Britain and Pakistan have always enjoyed substantial trading relationship, with more than 100 British companies operating successfully in Pakistan. Pakistan’s relations with the United Kingdom are on a growth trajectory in all areas of bilateral cooperation including trade, economic growth and development, cultural cooperation, security and education.

CX addresses South African Chamber's Indaba Christmas breakfast

Last week CX was honoured to address the South African Chamber of Commerce breakfast Indaba. The breakfast Indaba is a networking event for the UK based South African business network and it was great chance to present to and hear from a selection of businesses in the community, especially so soon after Nelson Mandela's passing.

We used the opportunity to discuss our programme of activity, particularly our trade guides and a paper on Commonwealth immigration to the UK.

Great case studies of UK-Commonwealth trade

TradeA couple of great case studies of UK-Commonwealth trade were highlighted by UKTI last week. The first is of UK educational firm GEM expanding in to India after already building links with Australia, Singapore and the Maldives.

Their Director says that other nations “were interested in sending their students to the UK because it’s a stable environment, has a developed education system and of course English is an international language.”

On the decision to expand in to India, the case study points out that:

“Half of the country’s population of 1.2 billion is under the age of 25, it has close historical and cultural ties with the UK, there’s a high level of English spoken, a vibrant hospitality sector, and an appreciation of overseas training.”

In the opposite direction, the Canadian logistics firm CareGo has established a presence in the UK. Having decided to look abroad, CareGo’s President and CEO commented: “the UK, with its common language and cultural similarities seemed like a good place to start.”

Having now established a base, CareGo now “plans to use its UK experience to expand into India and South East Asia.”

Two great examples of the Commonwealth in action building links and promoting trade.