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Lord Marland, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, launches the CommonwealthFirst initiative.

CommonwealthFirst to support small and medium enterprises seeking to export

15 June 2016

A new initiative to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) trade and invest across the Commonwealth is being launched by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), with support from Royal Mail.

The three-year initiative, called CommonwealthFirst, will select 100 outstanding, export-ready SMEs based in the United Kingdom to become Commonwealth ‘Export Champions’. The Export Champions will be provided with training, mentoring and business development support to help them win business in high-growth Commonwealth markets.

The success of these Export Champions will then be showcased as an encouragement to the wider business community to make greater use of the Commonwealth network, and a global roll-out of the programme will follow the initial UK pilot. Regardless of whether the companies are early-stage or more established, they will all be encouraged to make greater use of the Commonwealth family of networks and organisations.

The initiative follows the publication of a report by the Commonwealth Secretariat, The Commonwealth in the Unfolding Global Trade Landscape, which showed that trade among the Commonwealth’s 53 member countries is predicted to surpass $1 trillion by 2020.

The research showed that, when bilateral trading partners are both Commonwealth members, they tend to save around 19 percent in costs and generate 10 percent more foreign direct investment inflows. Evidence also suggests that hundreds of billions of dollars of intra-Commonwealth trade has yet to be exploited, particularly through trade with developing countries. 

Lord Marland, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, said: “CommonwealthFirst will complement the UK Government’s efforts in helping UK companies to think internationally. This initiative will enable us to deliver on the potential of the Commonwealth network for UK businesses – something that we have overlooked for too long.”

The initiative is planning to include tailored trade missions to fast-growing Commonwealth markets such as Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Nigeria and South Africa.

Lord Maude, former UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment commented: “CommonwealthFirst will complement the UK Government’s efforts in helping UK companies to think internationally. This initiative will enable us to deliver on the potential of the Commonwealth network for UK businesses – something that we have overlooked for too long.”

Applications for the first cohort of SMEs close on the 20th June. The first Commonwealth Export Champions will be announced in July.

Find out more from the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council website

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