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#TradeTuesday: The Commonwealth Games may be over but Birmingham’s trading legacy has only just begun

By George Esmond
09 August 2022

By George Esmond

Yesterday saw the sun set on a positive Commonwealth Games for Birmingham, Britain, and its relationship with the Commonwealth.

Around 30,000 visitors, and millions at home, were treated to a medley of music, complete with homecoming hero Ozzy Osbourne, fancy-dressed dancers, and hundreds of fireworks. This was all set against a backdrop that traced the history of the city from the industrial revolution to its post-war rebuilding, right through to the present day, and delivering a new vision for what comes next for Britain’s second-largest city.

While the Commonwealth Games Federation frets over the future of the games, its continued relevance as some of the best athletes continued to stay away and the added concern about the future of the Commonwealth after Queen Elizabeth II, its legacy may yet be one of investment and future innovation for Britain's trading relations.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK’s intention to transform trade with the fast-growing economies of the Commonwealth. The UK Government introduced new Platinum Partnerships in a bid to ‘turbocharge’ the country’s trade with key Commonwealth countries and provide in-depth advice and coaching on green growth, infrastructure, financial services, public finance, and trade.

The government also launched the Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS). Replacing the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences, the scheme aims to reduce tariffs and increase trade with lower-middle-income partners to help British businesses trade more harmoniously with 18 Commonwealth countries and build on the UK’s financial and technical support for areas like the African Continental Free Trade Area.

At the time, Boris Johnson said the scheme would ensure the “UK is at the forefront of seizing opportunities, driving shared growth and prosperity for the benefit of all people of the Commonwealth” and capitalise on this unique union by supporting economic development overseas while fostering new markets for British expertise and exports.

This diplomatic-driven approach is already yielding significant opportunities, outlined in some investment announcements from international firms at the Commonwealth Business Forum as part of UK House - an eight-day programme of trade and investment talks between businesses taking place alongside the Games.

The Canadian fintech company Kora – which helps businesses to accept and make payments and convert currency across multiple channels - confirmed that it is making its first European investment, with the opening of its UK office in the West Midlands. Meanwhile, the Disposal Company announced that it will create a new UK headquarters in Birmingham over the coming year. Based in Jaipur, Rajasthan it is India’s first automated plastic offsets platform, helping reduce plastic waste. Both investments have already been hailed as “a sign that the Global Growth Programme is bearing fruit”, positioning Birmingham as Britain’s new international business hub.

Despite the notion that the Commonwealth Games - now in its 22nd year - is entering its dying embers, it still produces a steady stream of rousing moments. It also offers a glimmer what may come for Britain’s sporting future and trading resurgence. The Commonwealth’s GDP has risen by a quarter since 2017 and is forecast to jump by close to another 50 per cent to $19.5 trillion over the next five years, creating exciting new export markets for UK businesses. Now that’s something we ought to be celebrating.