The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Posts Tagged ‘Trade and investment’

2012: 12 Highlights

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

This is my last blog of the year. Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Herewith twelve personal highlights from a fascinating, fun and fast-moving year in Sweden:

  • January saw the first of many Ministerial visits this year. Lord Green, our Business Minister came for a big meeting on smart grids and renewable energy, one of many trade and investment sectors linking the UK and Sweden;
  • February involved a two-day visit by Prime Minister David Cameron, here to attend the second Northern Future Forum, bringing together PMs and policy experts from the UK and the Nordic-Baltic countries, this year looking at the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society and how to get more women into the workforce.
  • March was a particular highlight, with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, spending three days in and around Stockholm, looking at social integration, education, architecture, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.  All areas where our governments, businesses and societies are working together.
  • April saw me in Gothenburg for a great event with British and Swedish business leaders and sportspeople marking 100 days to go the London Olympics.
  • May’s highlight was my first visit to Malmö, an opportunity to meet local politicians, journalists and business people and to talk to students at the university of Lund about the UK and Europe.
  • In June, we hosted two big receptions, one in partnership with the BBC and one with Brunswick, to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, including a concert of English music from across the centuries. And it was a privilege to attend the centenary events for the Stockholm 1912 Olympics and to receive Stockholm’s good wishes for the London games.
  • July meant Almedalen and several days of sunshine and seminars in the glorious surroundings of Visby.
  • August included a lovely week’s break in Sandhamn, enjoying the splendours of the archipelago.
  • September was visits season again, with the Head of the UK Civil Service coming to Stockholm to see how an Embassy works. Happily, he went away impressed!
  • October saw two more excellent visits, by our Europe Minister, David Lidington and the Chief of the UK Defence Staff, Sir David Richards, talking respectively about the prosperity and security interests the UK and Sweden have in common.
  • November saw England’s footballers given the honour of inaugurating the new Friends Arena and of being spectators to an amazing display by Zlatan!
  • December saw a British winner! Sir John Gurdon received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his ground-breaking research on reprogramming of cells. Work begun 50 years ago, which has led to stem cell research and the promise of cures which will benefit our grandchildren’s generation. A forward-looking and cheerful note on which to end. Every best wish for a peaceful Christmas and prosperous New Year!

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Europe: remembering and renewing

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I was planning to write anyway this week about the European Union, following the European Summit at the end of the week before last.

For Britain, the EU remains key to our prosperity and security. Phrases like that can seem banal, the stuff of speeches and policy documents.

But the death this weekend of Vaclav Havel reminds us that for many tens of millions of Europeans that promise was denied them for half a century of Cold War Communism.

The bravery and vision of leaders, thinkers, writers and campaigners like him created the conditions for the reunification of Europe, surely one of the greatest positive changes in our lifetimes.

Britain wants a European Union that is faithful to the ideals of those who fought so hard for the changes that made its enlargement possible.  That means a Europe committed to further enlargement, and to robust and effective external action, in foreign, defence and security policy, in work on energy security and climate change and – not least – on human rights.

In all of this, Sweden is an absolutely key partner. We both agree on the need to ensure the Single Market works better, particularly for businesses. It is only by keeping our economies open, expanding our trade and making EU laws more business friendly that we can get the economic growth in Europe that we all want to see.

Britain is and will remain a great place to invest, with all the advantages of the Single Market, and with important national features on top of that:

–    one of the easiest places in the world to set up a business, according to the World Bank;

–    21 new enterprise zones around the country offering relief from business rates and taxes;

–    tax on business falling to 23% by 2014, one of the lowest rates in the G7; and

–    the great British heritage, culture and (most of the time) climate!

Like Sweden, we believe in a liberal, open, outward-facing Europe, which needs to be smart and competitive to thrive economically in the world we face today.

For that, we need to do everything we can to guard against a rigid, two-speed Europe. Countries large or small, inside or outside the single currency area, are equal partners in the EU.  Maintaining that balance and fairness will remain a priority for Britain.

Very best wishes to all readers of this blog for a peaceful and happy Christmas and all that you and your family would wish for in the New Year.

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Beach volleyball and business

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

There is probably only one respect in which I may regret coming to Sweden this summer.

That’s because in my old job in the Foreign Office in London I had an office overlooking St James’ Park and Horse Guards Parade.

Every Spring Horse Guards Parade is full of military bands practicing for the annual military parade that takes place to mark the Queen’s official birthday. So office workers like me were treated to free concerts most mornings in May and June.

That itself, I would not miss too much. But next August the spectacle will be even more amazing. The Olympics beach volleyball tournament will be taking place there.

So my one small regret about being here rather than there is that I would have had a front-row seat for a spectacular piece of sporting theatre, against a great historic backdrop, including the Old Admiralty building, from which messages used to go out to Nelson’s fleet in battles against Napoleon.

The Olympics and Paralympics in London next summer will be an amazing expression of the universality of sport.  Not quite an A-Z of competition, but an A to W, from Athletics, Aquatics and Archery to Weightlifting and Wrestling. 26 sports in total and 20 sports in the Paralympics just a few weeks later.

The Paralympics originated in the UK. The first took place at the world famous Stoke Mandeville hospital, to coincide with the 1948 London games. They were inspired by the idea of helping rehabilitate soldiers and other athletes who had come back from battle with spinal injuries. Since 1976 they have been open to athletes with different disabilities and in London next year for the first time the Olympics and Paralympics will be fully integrated.

Some of the UK’s most iconic sporting venues will be used: Wimbledon for Tennis, Lord’s Cricket Ground for Archery, Old Trafford for Football, Greenwich for Equestrian events.

But the Games  will also see the construction of amazing new stadia, accommodation and infrastructure in the East of London, much of which will be retained and developed for the local community and local business

Sustainable business growth was a big theme of our Olympic bid.  The UK will be hosting not just athletes but Heads of State and Government and Heads of international companies from around the world during the Games next year.

So we’re working with UK Trade and Investment, the Government department responsible for encouraging UK exports and investment into the UK. The Government will be hosting a Global Investment Conference bringing together CEOs from around the world and “sector summits”, exploring challenges and opportunities in ICT, energy, infrastructure, etc.

I had the pleasure this week of hosting in the Embassy two Managing Directors of UKTI, along with UKTI teams from across the Nordic region. If you’re keen to learn more about the opportunities the UK and the Olympics in particular could offer your business here in Sweden, do get in touch with our UKTI team, via the Embassy website.

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Speed-dating for science

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

It’s probably fair to say that there’s never been a better time in human history to grow old.

Which is just as well, given that some studies suggest that one out of two women born in countries like the UK and Sweden next year will live to be a hundred.

If they do indeed live to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the Stockholm 1912 Olympics and the centenary of London 2012 that will be due in large part to scientific and medical advances.

Last week I had the privilege to host a meeting, now in its third year, bring together leading Swedish pharmaceutical companies and research institutes, notably AstraZeneca and Karolinska, with about a dozen UK life sciences companies.

UK life sciences is a world leading high-tech industry, investing over £5 billion in R and D in the UK. 30% of all European biotech companies are based in the UK and over a third of all biopharmaceutical clinical trials take place in the UK.

The Embassy’s Trade and Investment team brought together pharmaceutical companies, academics and biotech innovators, for a networking event in the hope that they would forge partnerships, which might in years to come lead to miraculous new medicines and other treatments.

I described it, rather irreverently, as “speed dating for science”, but the scientists were kind enough to say that that’s exactly what it was.

Like real speed dating (so they tell me….) the failure rate is high.  But the successes are fantastic.

So the high risk and long lead times don’t daunt these dedicated professionals and the work they do should mean longer and happier lives for us and for future generations.

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Trading up

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

It has perhaps become commonplace to say that the world is becoming more and more connected. That we live in a global village. That we all depend on each other.  But it’s worth repeating because it needs to condition how we work to make the modern world a fairer and more prosperous place for all.

Crises have a habit of bringing this into particular focus.  Think global banking and you probably think crisis.  Global and climate now equals threat.  Think international solidarity and you perhaps think Haiti earthquake and perhaps Pakistan floods.  There is an underlying narrative that links the way we are connected to our inherent vulnerabilities.

But connectedness is also about opportunity.   And the publication yesterday by the British government of our new Trade and Investment White Paper shows the way.  Interconnectedness also means trade and investment, and these are roads to strong and sustainable growth for the future.

There is an important idea too about how our mutual dependency can be a positive. Trade and investment is not a game where some countries or parts of the world win and others lose. We all gain from  an increase in trade. Trade is a way out of poverty for poor countries.

But this needs openness.  The fastest growing countries are often those with the fewest trade barriers. So we must commit to open markets globally and make sure we don’t revert to protectionism. The UK is launching an African Free Trade initiative to remove barriers to trade. Further a conclusion of the Doha Development Round of trade talks in 2011 would mean that this agreement, once signed, would boost the global economy by £110 billion.

The UK also want to build partnerships to help businesses build networks and strengthen international trade and investment and multilateral system.

This will not be an easy task, but it is a task that we can achieve if we have confidence in what we can achieve together, for jobs and growth and in the struggle against world poverty.  It’s time to trade up.

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