Those of you that saw my blog from Monday will know that David Cameron will today shake hands with the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the eight Nordic and Baltic countries at the front door of No10 Downing Street at the beginning of the UK Nordic Baltic Summit. As I said in that blog, this is no ordinary summit but rather an exercise in alternative summitry. Or asummitry, to coin a term. It will be a fascinating couple of days.
The brakes are released today when Lord Green hosts a trade conference in London with leading business figures from across the Nordic and Baltic nations. The conference aims to put a further burst of energy into trade and investment among the nine countries, especially in the areas of low carbon and technology and innovation.
But this is an exercise that builds on a recent track record of considerable achievement. The Nordic and Baltic countries are key partners in trade and inward investment – two-way trade in goods and services is worth over £50bn a year, a figure that roughly equates to the value of our trade with France. Last year saw a 13% rise in foreign direct investment in the UK from the Nordic markets. We also share an ambitious approach to building out the low-carbon economy and taking advantage of moving early into green goods and services to ensure that we both lead the push for a sustainable global economy and put our businesses in the box seat to capitalise on this new economy as it rolls out across the world. Today’s event in London is also an opportunity to remind our trade and investment partners in the Nordic and Baltic region that the UK is the number one location in Europe for inward investment and the number one location to do business. And in low carbon energy we are probably the most ambitious nation in Europe.
OK, so that’s a big claim to make. But we have reason to make it. The UK has the largest offshore wind market in the world, with the potential to account for 32GW of electricity generation by 2020 – enough to supply 25% of the UK’s energy needs. This creates huge inward investment opportunities. We have a highly skilled workforce with experience in working offshore, world-leading testing infrastructure under construction in the north east of England, and strong companies already active in the sector: both home-grown such as JDR Cables, and inward investors such as Dong, Vestas, Vattenfall, Statoil – companies from – you guessed it – the Nordic and Baltic region. And to encourage manufacturing companies to set up here the Government has announced up to £60m to support the establishment of offshore wind manufacturing at ports sites in England while the Scottish Government is providing a further £70m for port infrastructure in Scottish ports.
So we’ve a lot of work to do together. Asummitrically, too.