The USA, Turkey and India all in a few days for the PM… great stuff! The only way this country is going to get out of its economic mess is to trade its way out and that means every part of Government putting its full weight behind UK Business to stimulate trade, attract inward investment and thus create jobs and generate taxation from increased profits. Small businesses, in particular, have to be encouraged and supported in this drive. It all starts at the top and the Prime Minister is walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
But his travels (or should that be travails?) started in the USA. He landed with American sensitivities very raw over BP and the dreadful disaster in the Gulf and the wrong-headed release of the Lockerbie bomber. So far as BP and the Gulf calamity is concerned we don’t know, of course, what was said in private but it would have been nice if Cameron’s plain-speaking, that came to the fore in other countries, could have been heard to point out publicly to the Americans that it was an American Company (Transocean) that operated the Rig, it was an American Company (Halliburton) that constructed it and it was an American regulator that encouraged BP to go drilling in such deep water at the boundaries of technology in the first place! More Americans work for BP than do Brits and 40% of the shares in BP are registered in the USA. “British Petroleum” Mr Obama? I don’t think so and the Prime Minister should have “gone public” on this more than he did.
But the Prime Ministerial gaffe (and in my opinion the only one of his travels) that only endorsed the Americans’ rather convenient but utterly erroneous version of recent history and really did incense Brits everywhere, was when he referred to us a being the junior partner to them in the struggle in 1940! That’s right…1940! When we stood alone in this Island Nation against tyranny with only the English Channel, Churchill’s inspiration and the RAF to save us and with our cousins 3000 miles away affecting utter disinterest and actually believing we were going to throw in the towel, just as they had seen the French do. Factual mistake it may have been. No need to rectify it for the Americans since they think that was what happened anyway! It’s his own country he should have been apologising to!
Then onto Turkey. When I was at the CBI we campaigned constantly in Brussels and beyond along with the UK Government to get Turkey admitted into the EU. We Brits love wider, getting-richer-every-day markets which will buy our goods and services, especially in tariff-free trading environments. Turkey, a secular state where Europe meets Asia is doing so much to meet the Entry Criteria and yet France and Germany are leading it up the garden path to non-membership. If we want sustainable peace on Europe’s borders and moderate Islam to co-exist happily with the other faiths of the European Union we need Turkey in. Turkey will become more and more important in the coming decades in geo-political as well as economic terms and its membership of the EU Club will enrich, protect and strengthen us all. David Cameron called that one absolutely right and we must keep the pressure on the French and the Germans to wake up and smell the coffee of 21st century reality.
India! A billion people! (incidentally, they elect a Parliament of just 500 MPs in their successful democracy; why do we 62 million in the UK need to elect 650 to govern us?!) 750 million of them still work on the land. Their industrialisation hasn’t started yet! As India grows economically, as they continue to send highly skilled, tolerant people around the World enriching countries wherever they go, as their share of global GDP expands, we in the UK want to be there, right there, exercising commercial diplomacy for all its worth, exploiting the historic ties of so many in both countries as equal partners in a changed world, attracting the inward investment that India facilitates, plying our trade in added-value retail, banking and professional services over there. And both sides must do more… and quickly! India must open up her protected markets (in areas where we excel) if she wishes to be at the top table of globalisation and we must end, at once, this ridiculous capping of immigration numbers in such an indiscriminate way. If you speak English, have a job, a sponsoring employer and a skill please come to our Country and make some money for yourself and also for us. That should have been your message, Mr Cameron; not saying all the right things (and definitely scoring huge brownie points by taking so many other Ministers and business people…well done!) but allowing your Government to stifle the very wealth-creation you espouse by not letting the wealth-creators in! It’s OK for someone from Bratislava to come but not from Bangalore? We must be potty! Now change that Prime Minister and your wish for a meaningful Special Relationship with India will really make progress.
So enjoy your holiday Prime Minister… on balance, an excellent start for putting meaning into trading our way out of our problems.