Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

Banging the Drum for Britain

Published Wednesday 17 November, 2010

There is only one way our Country is going to get itself out of our economic mess; we are going to have to trade our way out.

Whilst cuts in spending on the public sector are essential to rebalance the economy and prevent eventual national bankruptcy, cuts never grew an economy. Only Business operating on an international basis will generate the profits to create the jobs and pay the tax to get us out of the bind.

And that means trading all over the World. The entire Planet is our market! Britain was built for globalisation; we are an open business society who make good traders, from Beijing to Bangalore, from Birmingham to Baltimore.

But Governments don't make money! Mind you, they know how to spend it! No, it is the businesses of Britain that do that and a group of twenty or so Businessmen and women have come together as UK Business Ambassadors under the shepherding of UK Trade and Investment (the Government's trade and investment promotion organisation that I had the privilege of running as a non-party-political Minister from 2007 to 2008) to go out to our important international markets, on an unpaid basis, and bang the drum for “Brand Britain” or perhaps that should be “Business Blighty!”

This new initiative builds on an existing scheme for which the previous Government deserves the credit for starting. The idea is for someone like me, who has many contacts in many markets, when travelling for one of the Companies I represent, to put in an extra free day or event for the Country.

Perhaps to speak at an event for our local Embassy in Brazil about how good we are at value-added manufacturing (even Michael Schumacher gets into a Mercedes Formula One racing car that is built in Britain because we're the best at making such advanced engineering products!) or (if the Business Ambassador is from the World of fashion) to give voluble public support at a fashion show in Milan where fabulous British designers are doing their stuff.

Maybe it will be the Chairman of a major UK Bank promoting the British Financial Sector (still the largest in the World and a huge tax-payer into our depleted coffers) in the Gulf, or the Vice-Chancellor of one of our top Universities encouraging overseas students in Shanghai or Mumbai to come and study (and pay fees!) in Britain.

Many a small business wants to export but doesn't what to do next. Many a larger business here would tool up with more people (more new jobs!) to go selling around the World, but needs support. The UK Business Ambassadors will give of their time, their contacts, their inspiration and experience for free to help our Country trade our way out of our problems in the biggest market of them all: the globalised economy.

Their are 1.3 billion Chinese, a billion Indians, 180 million Brazilians, 160 million Indonesians and a hundred million Mexicans all getting richer every day. Brazil elevated 30 million of its people into the middle class from the poorer part of their Society in the last three years alone! 400 million Chinese have left poverty for good in the last ten years. That's more than the populations of the USA, Britain and Spain put together!

And every one of these getting-richer people will have a bit more money to show off with. They will be able to buy a Mini or a Jaguar from the UK; or a British-designed pair of shoes, or bank with a UK Bank or send their youngster to a British University.

That is the chance on offer from the emerging markets of the 21st Century; and UK business can bring home the bacon; and the newly-appointed UK Business Ambassadors will be there helping things along, doing their bit.