Merseyside and Cheshire businesses cement Commonwealth

The Merseyside and Cheshire Commonwealth Association (MCCA) has officially launched at a major international trade event in Chester attended by hundreds of local businesses and The Earl of Wessex HRH Prince Edward.

The event on Commonwealth Day, Monday, March 12, saw over 300 people including regional leaders, Commonwealth member states representatives, and businesses from across Merseyside and Cheshire gather to celebrate the launch of the MCCA, which aims to create a broad network of individuals and organisations committed to improving trade and cultural links between the North of England and the 53 member states.

Sponsored by the British Business Bank and Department for International Trade, the event was held by Cheshire & Warrington LEP and Liverpool City Region LEP. It highlighted the regions’ cultural and economic Commonwealth connections and gave delegates the opportunity to explore the rich international trade opportunities across member nations.

The event is part of ongoing activity across the UK designed to drive deeper engagement with key Commonwealth markets. In April, The Department for International Trade (DIT) will be hosting the UK’s largest ever Commonwealth Heads of Government summit, with 53 Heads of State in attendance at Lancaster House.

During his address, HRH Prince Edward congratulated the regions for the initiative they had shown in coming together to launch the MCAA – one of the biggest Commonwealth Associations in the UK. HRH said Britain’s Commonwealth connections were multi-layered and went much deeper than purely transactional exchanges. He added that The Commonwealth should be a force for good.

The Earl of Wessex also passed on good wishes and congratulations from his mother, The Head of the Commonwealth, HRH Her Majesty, The Queen, on the launch of the MCAA.

Councillor Gary Millar, President and Chair of the Merseyside and Cheshire Commonwealth Association, said: “We’re delighted to have marked the launch of the very first Merseyside and Cheshire Commonwealth Association, supported by hundreds of businesses and representatives from across the Commonwealth. We were honoured to welcome HRH Prince Edward and to have him share Her Majesty The Queen’s support and good wishes with us on the launch of the Association.

“Strengthening and deepening our international trade links across the globe is key for the future of the UK economy – and this starts with businesses on the ground. Studies show that exporting can boost business growth by up to 43 per cent, so it’s an opportunity that we can’t ignore or turn our backs on.

“The upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be pivotal in enabling us to strategically assess how best to move forward as a committed and connected body, focused on positive, sustainable growth for all member nations.”

Other speakers on the day included The Lord Mayor of Chester, Councillor Razia Daniels, who is a native of Tanzania; Christine Gaskell, Chair of Warrington and Cheshire LEP; and Councillor Gary Millar President and Chair of the Merseyside and Cheshire Commonwealth Association. The event was also addressed by people representing the many deep Commonwealth connections across the two counties, including two Commonwealth scholars from The University of Chester.

Delegates were provided with exporting insights from speakers including Dave Maisey, co-founder and chief executive of Warrington-based ICC Solutions, which has won the Queens Award for Enterprise four times; Ed Whitby, the director of the world’s largest ice-cream van manufacturer Cheshire-based Whitby Morrison; David Watson The Australian Trade Commissioner; and the Department of International Trade’s Director of Exports and investment, Northern Powerhouse, Marian Sudbury.

Christine Gaskell, Chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “Expanding and deepening our export links with global partners is an absolute no-brainer and an approach that can have transformational benefit for even the smallest SME. Cheshire and Merseyside are both home to fantastic, outward looking businesses that are ambitious and hungry for international growth and we benefit from outstanding global connectivity and positioning.

“Collaboration and partnership are at the heart of the Commonwealth – we are better together, and we were delighted to jointly launch the very first Cheshire and Merseyside Commonwealth Association at this outstanding event, surrounded by brilliant regional businesses and leaders, Commonwealth representatives, and supported by HRH Prince Edward.

“The organisation will play an invaluable role in supporting our regional businesses and enabling them to more easily connect with international markets through new networks they will form, and the invaluable support and advice they will be able to tap into – helping to ensure the region is firmly on the global map as a key location for trade and investment.”

The day also included opportunities for delegates to access grant funding for exporting, and explore the on-site exhibitors and exporters’ marketplace. Businesses also had the chance to seek expert advice and guidance at the Department for International Trade’s ‘Exporting is Great’ Hub.

The Prime Minister has identified the UK’s commitment to global free trade as one of her top priorities for the Summit, and the event will showcase a truly global Britain with open and free trade at its heart, as well as building on the UK’s existing bilateral trading relationships.