Turning the heat up under cool Britannia
“We are dealing with the most unusual number of crises since World War II,” said William Hague, UK’s Foreign Secretary at the City Week conference in London. Luxembourg for Finance is one of the sponsors of this event, which deals with the challenges facing the financial industry and attracts more than 650 delegates from over 40 countries. Mr Hague underlined that Great Britain shouldn’t be afraid of the fundamental economic shift in global geopolitics.
In December 2011, Brazil overtook Great Britain as the sixth largest economy in the world. “Some people have seen this as a decline of British economy,” William Hague noted. The UK Foreign Secretary has suggested giving up the old fashioned thinking that we are still in a world of economic blocks or a north/south divide. To him it is obvious that this radical shift in economic power to countries from the East and the South has opened up new opportunities and this is a change that Britain should not fear. “It is not a zero sum game of decline of the United Kingdom but instead it is the opportunity for all nations to thrive in a more prosperous world,” he emphasised.
Mr Hague was very straightforward in admitting that commercial diplomacy would be at the heart of foreign policy. Not just to secure UK’s economic recovery and future prosperity, but also to ensure that Great Britain’s influence in the world is not diminished. While listing his priorities which he says would help make Great Britain more competitive, Mr Hague, a member of the Conservative Party, criticised his Labour predecessor. “I have changed the priorites of the Foreign office, which had many before, too many to remember. We now have three of them: the security of our country, its prosperity, and looking out for British nationals overseas”.
When the new British government came into power two years ago, it faced a twin set of challenges that were much greater than the ones its predecessors had before. Internationally, a fundamental economic shift and domestically, the most difficult economic times since the 1930’s. “The continuing crisis in the eurozone turned into a big international threat to our prosperity in the United Kingdom. The European Union is our largest market place, and the eurozone countries accounted for 43% of British exports in 2011. Europe as a whole must conquer the instinct to turn inwardly at a time when we need to be more outward-looking than ever to seek opportunities from beyond Europe. The whole world must be our market place and it would be shortsighted to only focus on the European Union” - clear words from a determined Foreign Secretary.
Emerging powers are the key
It is a very busy time for the Foreign Office in terms of improving prosperity and deepening commercial diplomacy. With only 1% of the world’s population, the United Kingdom is the world’s sixth largest trading nation. Britain seeks to profit from its shared values with countries such as India. Mr Hague wants Britain to be India’s partner of choice in a whole range of areas. One of his goals is to double British trade with India by 2015.
China, the key emerging economy is of course on Hague’s radar as well, though he addressed some words of advice to the world’s second largest economy: “China needs to increase domestic consumption and develop its service industry. China also needs to diversify its overseas investments. But it is not only about China, India or Brazil, we are also increasing our efforts quite dramatically in emerging countries like Korea, Indonesia and Turkey.”
Foreign Secretary William Hague made it very clear at the City Week conference in London that Great Britain is not only open for business, but it has a lot to offer. “We are one of the world’s most open economies, home of the world’s most international financial centre.” The financial industry employs more than 1 million people, of which two thirds are outside London. Last but not least, the UK is the leading country for exporting financial services, which accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP. CW