In the second of a 3-part article aimed at stimulating debate, Carl Richardson continues a response to a challenge from the Prime Minister. Click here to read Part I of the article.
• Trade missions – As the world begins to unlock following the pandemic, and we set out to re-establish the ‘Global Britain’ brand, why not set out an ambitious schedule of trade missions to key markets, planned enough time in advance – say six to 12 months at least - in order to give business people ample opportunity to manage diaries and ensure they can participate? This would be a simple yet effective way to help improve the outcome of trade missions. Diary management has become a key part of modern business life with business people juggling so many different tasks. Clear forward planning and notice of such trips would help to ensure that the most suitable representatives of business can participate while not neglecting the day job. The missions must involve a true reflection of our business community, including leaders from ambitious and successful SMEs and family-run businesses throughout the country, alongside CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, working in tandem with our trade experts within the Department of International Trade in order to ensure that business plays a genuinely active role in developing the opportunities that exist all around the world.
All plans around trade missions have been understandably curtailed for the past 18 months, but shouldn’t we now be ready to jump back confidently into the world once restrictions allow, travelling and building networks and relationships in person?
We must also grasp events such as the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and our application to join the Pacific Rim-focused CPTPP trade group to help turbo-charge our exports and economic growth. Indeed, the Commonwealth Games, coming off the back of another golden Olympics for Britain and the positive vibe that generates, presents a generational opportunity for the West Midlands to be thrust firmly to the forefront of such international promotion.
• National Flagship - Let’s further demonstrate our ambition as a country and press ahead with welcome initiatives such as the much-discussed new national flagship yacht, not as a vanity project but rather as a display of British self-belief which can provide a unique (and mobile) ‘money can’t buy’ experience. This can then be used by our leaders to form crucial relationships with key decision-makers around the globe while simultaneously showcasing the best of British on the ship. Defence secretary Ben Wallace has now given a “firm price” of what will be a floating embassy of between £200 million and £250 million – less than 0.1 per cent of the £13 billion defence budget for shipbuilding over the next 10 years from which the cost will be drawn. While my role as an honorary officer in the Royal Navy Reserve might influence my support for a new flagship, when you look at the cost-benefit of the plans maybe it is not such a bad deal after all?
• Get behind the British Goods Bill – Introduced by John Spellar, MP for Warley, where our business is headquartered, this Bill aims to place a duty on public bodies to have a ‘presumption in favour’ of purchasing goods of British origin when orders are being placed. The Private Members’ Bill received its first reading in the House of Commons just before the summer recess, and is due for a second reading on 10th December. To be clear, we are advocates of free trade, but in a post-Brexit world where we supposedly have more control of our rules, it is baffling when you hear that none of the syringes used to give the 85 million doses of covid vaccine that have been delivered to date in the UK have been made here. Surely more effort could have been made to procure locally? Is a law required to make this happen, or just an adjustment in attitude and awareness? While there will undoubtedly be challenges and much debate around the Bill, and we clearly have to strike the right balance with this in order to give our Trade negotiators a fair chance as they continue to work on a raft of new Free Trade Agreements with different countries, as John himself has said, if the USA can manage to balance being a member of the WTO and a great trading nation with a firm ‘Buy America’ policy, surely we can do the same with more of a ‘Buy British’ approach to our procurement efforts?
The world is indeed moving faster than ever, and we absolutely agree with the Prime Minister’s assessment that, as a country, we therefore need to move faster with it. As everyone involved in business knows, you cannot afford to stand still, and have to constantly be looking to develop, evolve and improve all aspects of what you do if you want to achieve sustained success. This piece represents the second of a three-part series of articles containing a few thoughts and ideas to help stimulate debate and contribute to the task of ensuring we are indeed as nimble as possible in our thinking and approach in the years ahead.
Parts III of this article will be published on www.richardsons.co.uk next week.
For more information, please contact Paul Faulkner at firstname.lastname@example.org