Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by British Trade International

  Thank you for your letter of 10 April. I entirely recognise that it might not be possible for the Committee to undertake an enquiry into the British Trade International Annual Report 2001 before the new Parliament. I remain ready therefore to give evidence to the Committee in due course at their convenience.

  We have no specific comments to make on the FCO Annual Report. The Committee will be aware I think that we drafted the elements on British Trade International that appear in the report. You asked for our views on two points in advance as part of the Committee's preparation for Sir John Kerr's appearance before them. I understand though that the Committee's first question also relates to the Consul General's Residence in San Francisco. Our response, which follows, therefore covers both issues:

What use has British Trade International made of the Consulate General [and Residence] in San Francisco?

  British Trade International's trade and investment activities in the San Francisco area are of course based in the offices of the British Consulate General in San Francisco. The offices are centrally located and well used for one to one meetings and some video conferencing. Space is however at a premium and networking receptions and mission briefings can only take place there on a small scale. The Consul General's Residence has therefore been an integral part of our operation. A variety of events have been held there: lunches, dinners, receptions and networking events putting businesses together with businesses. We estimate that on average about 2,000 people a year attend functions with BTI interests at the residence. And similarly we estimate that over 70 of the 117 functions held at the Residence in the last three years have related to trade or investment promotion. At least two receptions held there in the past two months have had more than 120 guests each from the key industry sectors of information technology and biotechnology.

How would British Trade International's activities be affected by closure or relocation of the Consulate General [or relocation of the Residence]?

  An effective operational base in San Francisco is critical to our trade and development and investment effort in California. As far as we are aware, there are no plans for the closure or relocation of the British Consulate General in San Francisco.

  British Trade International believe that the Consul General's Residence should reflect the UK's current standing in the San Francisco business community; maintain the UK's prominent and positive profile in California and provide a "unique" British environment that portrays an attractive image of the UK. The current location is a useful adjunct to the facilities afforded by the offices of the Consulate General and any relocation of the residence would need to be handled with great care to avoid adverse effect on its use for trade and investment purposes.

  We are confident that the FCO has these important considerations in mind. They have as much interest as BTI in ensuring that Britain's high profile image locally is not diminished by moving the Residence to a less prestigious location. British Trade International is confident that should the FCO make any changes in the location of the residence, the nation's trade and investment promotion needs will be taken fully into account in terms of the choice of any new residence. Wherever the residence is, its style and size must continue to provide a suitable marketing tool for the UK.

23 April 2001

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