Trade deals with countries outside the EU are likely to become increasingly important in a post-Brexit world.
So international meetings like the Business with the Commonwealth event held at Chester Racecourse are likely to take on even greater significance.
Keynote speaker Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, talked about the benefits of fostering stronger links across the Commonwealth not only in trade but in sport, health, education and the law when he gave the royal seal of approval.
The event, held on Commonwealth Day (March 12), marked the launch of the first combined Merseyside and Cheshire Commonwealth Association.
It aims to create a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving trade and cultural links between the North of England and the 53 Commonwealth states.
Prince Edward told those gathered: “What I really want to do is to first of all add my congratulations to those that had the initiative to set up an association up here in the first place and Gary Millar in particular because I know you were the driving force that got it going in Liverpool and the fact that idea was enthusiastically taken on by Cheshire and Warrington, I think is absolutely brilliant.”
He added: “It’s also brilliant there has been such a fantastic turn-out as well. I’m always conscious or slightly nervous in this country that for several generations we’ve been brought up on a diet that the Commonwealth is somehow linked to the Empire and the Empire was all bad.
“And so Britain has had quite a problem to embrace or engage with the Commonwealth. You go outside this country, to the Commonwealth, and you discover that view is completely and utterly wrong and the enthusiasm for the Commonwealth outside is somewhat tempered by the fact they don’t really quite understand why Britain can be so vague about it.
"And it’s delightful to hear the enthusiasm coming though from the speakers and no, this is a force for good.”
Imploring people to spread the word, he ended by reading a message from The Queen, head of the Commonwealth, who sent her good wishes and hoped for a ‘most successful event and enjoyable Commonwealth Day’.
Other speakers included David Watson, Australian Trade Commissioner, Kofi Addo, head of Trade and Investment Ghana High Commission UK and Ireland and Ed Whitby, operations director of Crewe-based Whitby Morrison who manufacture ice cream vans which sell around the globe.
Businesses from across the region learned about opportunities to access grant funding for exporting. There were stands representing the University of Chester, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce and companies including Warrington-based ICC Solutions Ltd and Chester enterprise Big 5 Catering.
Christine Gaskell, chair of Cheshire and Warrington Enterprise Partnership, who organised the event, told The Chronicle the event came about after being asked by the Palace what was happening to celebrate Commonwealth Day.
She said: “We got together and thought do you know what we could really make this into something that absolutely showcases the trade opportunities within Cheshire and Warrington and in my speech I said the opportunities are enormous. We export probably more goods than the rest of the UK – 20% of UK exports come from Cheshire and Warrington.
“We are near to Liverpool 2 (container terminal), we have got the airports, we have got the road links so we are perfectly placed to trade,” added Mrs Gaskell, who named big exporters like Vauxhall Motors at Ellesmere Port, Bentley at Crewe and Jaguar Land Rover at Halewood, Liverpool.
Cllr Samantha Dixon, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “We are really pleased it’s being held in Chester, putting us on the map internationally. There are representatives from all the Commonwealth High Commissions here today so you will see people from all over the world here.”
She pointed out the Lord Mayor Chester, Cllr Razia Daniels, was the perfect person to deliver the welcome speech as she is originally from the Commonwealth country of Tanzania, East Africa. She has lived in Chester since her marriage to Stephen in 1985.