The Spectator, in association with BAE Systems, hosted a half-day forum entitled ‘Exporting for Growth’ on 27 June. The event was held to discuss what can be done to spread British products and services globally, and to try and promote ‘Brand Britain’. This week’s magazine contains a supplement on the same theme, with pieces from speakers at the event and others with an interest in the state of British exports.
In it, Martin Vander Weyer argued that we, as a nation, need to broaden our horizons if we want to remain a major player in the global economy:
‘There is a fizzing revival of entrepreneurialism in post-recession Britain, and an appetite to go out and sell goods and services that have the hallmark of Britishness which the rest of the world still admires. But the late 20th-century decline of British industry and salesmanship was also real, and the global competition is fierce.’
Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, looked to the future of Britain’s exports:
‘In terms of policy direction, we are focusing on the big emerging markets… We all accept this is where the future lies… I am optimistic that in five or ten years’ time we will have a very different structure in Britain – a healthier and more balanced one.’
Nigel Whitehead discussed the role of the UK’s workforce in global exportation:
‘The single most important factor in driving the UK’s export success is the skill base of our workforce. A sustained rise is achievable only if it’s underpinned by world-class productivity, powered by high levels of skill and outstanding managerial and leadership competencies.’
John Cridland, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry emphasized the importance of the EU:
‘The EU remains fundamental to our economic future… If we’re going to successfully overhaul our trade mix, it’s crucial to ensure that the sectors where businesses have proven their international potential have the support they need to flourish.’
Ross Clark pointed to the complexities surrounding imports and exports:
‘Manufacturing is such a complex process, with specialist companies involved at every stage, that sorting out what is an export and what is an import has become an esoteric business… Like lower crime and better education, everyone wants more exports. But trying to achieve that requires ministers to learn not just when to offer assistance but when to keep their nose out of the market.’
Isabel Hardman spoke to former Secretary of State for Health, Stephen Dorrell about the NHS and how it can function as an export:
‘Dorrell warns that while the NHS has plenty it can sell abroad, it has a lot to learn from other countries too… He is more concerned with the need to improve the NHS at home, with an ambitious plan to change the entire attitude of the health service so that it focuses on the care that people need throughout their lives rather than the medicine and hospital treatment that they often need when that early care has failed.’
And Peter Bazalgette, chairman of the Arts Council of England, explores the way arts and culture are boosting Britain’s economy:
‘Since the credit crunch our government has had one priority only – economic growth. Now they’re discovering there’s this thing called the creative sector, growing twice as fast as the economy in general and increasing employment much faster than that.’
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