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Connecting with our cousins across the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth has long been an integral part of the international landscape and the recent Commonwealth games served to underline the importance of our trade links with these disparate overseas markets. As well as being a fantastic reminder of the commonalities we share with our cousins across the Commonwealth, it is also worth reflecting on the broader trading and commerce opportunities that our links with these countries can offer businesses.

After all, British companies have reported an enormous £7 billion of overseas business with Commonwealth countries as a result of UKTI support, with London firms securing a huge £1.2 billion of this within the last 18 months. This being the case,
I believe it's time for the Capital's businesses to race to the thriving and diverse markets of the Commonwealth, from Canada to India. And here are the statistics to back me up: at the last count, India moved up from the Capital's tenth largest export partner to the third, with trade totalling £2.2 billion in the last financial year.  

One such beneficiary of this upshot is London-based firm, CK Group, who recently took part in UKTI's 'India Scholarship' programme. Working with UKTI helped open the way for a £65,000 deal with a local distributor in Mumbai. The company, which has 200 UK-based employees, has since employed a general manager in India as part of on-going work to improve a local hospital's hygiene.

CK Group, along with many other companies I've met who trade with India often tell me that companies across the Commonwealth share a strong interested in all things British, and particularly London-based companies. It's obvious that the 'Union Jack' adds real credibility. Likewise, the Asia and Pacific regions are also significant destinations for London exporters, with trade to Commonwealth countries such as Singapore reaching £60.3 million for the first quarter of 2014, a 12 per cent rise on the previous quarter.

And let's not ignore North America - with more than 80 London firms from across sectors such as business services, the creative industry and the financial sector recently benefitting from a UKTI event which focused on opportunities in Canada, London's 18th biggest market.

Furthermore, as the forthcoming EU-Canada trade agreement continues to take shape, it is estimated that UK firms will benefit by an additional £1.3billion a year from trade with this crucial partner. All of these facts and figures paint a very clear picture: that Commonwealth markets are helping London companies to grow and hold huge potential for prosperity and export success. And with demand for British goods and services up across the board, it's clear to me as Director for UKTI London that London supply needs to meet Commonwealth demand.

Our role at UKTI is to help facilitate this and to get more companies t exporting and making the most of any opportunities available. We do this by opening doors to new markets and finding new customers and buyers for UK companies. The companies I have mentioned in this piece all took the wise decision to pick up the phone and contact UKTI London, where  our expert Trade Advisers were able to provide their expertise, advice and support, help them with market research and help them on their way to success.

You too could benefit from this support, whether in the Commonwealth or in any of the 111 countries UKTI operates in. The schemes and events we offer could provide you with a robust export plan. We can help to research markets, put you in touch with local Embassies and in-market experts, work locally to find business leads and give advice and tips on local business culture and etiquette.

I urge all companies who are considering taking the next step on their business journey to engage with the support available from UKTI, work with our specialist advisers and be one of 100,000 new exporters UKTI aims to create in the next five years.
 

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