Businesses in Greater Birmingham were last night urged to exploit a huge “Commonwealth advantage” when seeking new export markets.
Alan Gemmell, chief executive of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), was speaking at the inaugural dinner of Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce (GBCCC).
He told an audience of over 100 guests at Aston Conference Centre that doing business with Commonwealth countries was 19 per cent cheaper because of many factors, including a common language and laws.
He added: “The Commonwealth has shared values and it’s vital for us now to think how we are going to build a trusted network.
“All eyes will turn to Birmingham in a few years when it stages the 2020 Commonwealth Games. We want to build people’s trust in the Commonwealth and encourage businesses to trust one another as a way of building better business.
“We will support all SMEs who want to export into Commonwealth markets. The Commonwealth is young and growing in its ambition and so is Birmingham, one of the youngest cities in Europe.”
Earlier, guests stood for a moment of silence in respect for the victims of the atrocity in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the GBCC, of which the GBCCC is part, said the Chamber created the Commonwealth section is a natural part of its substantial international operations.
He said other reasons included opening new markets in the wake of Brexit and the awarding of the 2022 Commonwealth Games to Birmingham.
He added: “We are delighted that membership has already reached nearly 100 and we are hugely grateful to Aston University, who have been with us from the start. Its support from the outset has allowed us to take the GBCCC forward.”
Keith Stokes-Smith, the first president of the GBCC, said the fact that only nine per cent of British exports went to the Commonwealth was “totally unacceptable”.
He added: “There are many opportunities out there in the Commonwealth and much of it is untapped by Greater Birmingham. The demand is out there for quality British products.”
Alec Cameron, vice-chancellor of Aston University, told the gathering, which included the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Cllr Yvonne Mosquito, that Aston was proud to have been a founding patron of the GBCCC and added that 70 per cent of its students were from the black ethnic minority community, many of them from Commonwealth countries.
Saqib Bhatti, president of the GBCC, echoing the export potential in the Commonwealth, said: “We have so much talent in this region and we even have a trade surplus with both China and the US.
“I say to the politicians let us get on with it. We could be a bastion for international trade as countries like the US go for more isolationism.”
Businesses interested in joining the Commonwealth Chamber should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0845 603 6650.
The GBCCC’s next event is Trading with Jamaica, to find out more or to book click here.
Pictured: Top – Paul Faulkner. Middle row from left – Keith Stokes-Smith and Alec Cameron. Bottom row from left – Alan Gemmell, Jamila Davis, senior business development manager at GBCCC and Saqib Bhatti