Examination of witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2000
and MR ALASTAIR
80. Do you think there may be many firms out
there in Wales who are not aware of the services you can provide?
Do you have any suggestions as to how we could inform them of
(Sir David Wright) Could I say, Mr Edwards, out there
in the United Kingdom as a whole? I think one of the objectives
of the Wilson review was to try to deal with what I call the identity
and recognition factor in all this; the need to ensure that a
larger number of British companies are awareto coin a phrasethat
we are from the Government and we are here to help them; that
there is a set of services accessible by British companiessome
are charged for but a large number are notwhich provide
them with the opportunity either to increase their market share
in overseas markets or start exporting for the first time. Indeed,
one of our objectives in Trade Partners UK is to enhance that
work. That is why we have tried to achieve a distinctive branding
and a distinctive image for the new organisation. We are doing
thatand this is where we come back to the interests of
our structured dialogue with Wales Trade Internationalwith
our colleagues in the National Assembly for Wales, particularly
in relation to a new package of support for new exporters, what
we call a new "Passport to Export" package, which we
have just launched on a pilot basis. We are talking to our colleagues
in Wales about making that available to Welsh companies too.
81. In contrast to the WDA's criticism of Invest
UK, witnesses from the National Assembly told us they got excellent
support from Trade Partners UK. What is Trade Partners UK doing
differently from Invest UK?
(Sir David Wright) Nothing that I am aware of. I do
not suspect the Committee would welcome that as the end of my
answer. I think, if I might say so, some of the conversations
that I have had with Mr Livsey and Mr Llwyd today have reflected
the, perhaps, fairly high tension level of relations which can
emerge over some inward investment projects. However, as I say,
we are very keen to ensure that those do not arise, and we are
very keen to give every opportunity for inward investors to see
the opportunities in Wales. I think when we set up Trade Partners
UK in May last year we did so virtually contemporaneously with
the establishment of the three devolved administrations. One of
the main functions which was devolved to me in setting up the
new organisation was to enhance its regional delivery arm, which
in the past had either been disparate or non-existent. I was very
conscious too that when I was engaging in this activity in relation
to the English regions I needed to make absolutely certain that
we were like that, in lock-step with the three devolved administrations.
So I made it a particular priority early in my time when I was
setting up Trade Partners UK to establish a close working relationship
with Wales Trade International. I think, also, the fact that there
is a representative of the National Assembly for Wales on the
board of British Trade International and scrutinising the work
of the organisation every month had, if I might put it this way,
a considerable comforting effect upon what was being done by this
UK institution. I think the first board meeting which was attended
by Invest UK was in July this year.
(Mr Morgan) Either the end of June or the beginning
(Sir David Wright) That was the first occasion on
which a representative of Invest UK attended the board at which
there were the three representatives of the devolved administrations.
I would very much hope that one of the effects of having Invest
UK as part of the organisation and attending the board is that
the representative of the National Assembly feels that that is
an opportunity to press me and my colleagues on inward investment
issues if they arise.
82. Would it follow from what you said that
there could and, perhaps, should be some organisational change
in Invest UK so that there is a Welsh representative actually
there all the time, in the same way that you suggest you have
with Trade Partners UK?
(Sir David Wright) I am sorry, I may have misled the
Committee. If I did, I apologise. I am saying that British Trade
International has a board which meets every month. It is a board
which is composed in the majority of private sector representatives.
It has six government representatives on the board. They are from
the Foreign Office, the DTI, from ECGD and from the three devolved
administrations. There is nobody in Trade Partners UK who is actually
83. I think it was my misunderstanding.
(Sir David Wright) I misled you, I apologise. The
person who I am talking of is the representative on the board
and henceforth that representative will be scrutinising the work
of Invest UK in the way that they have in the past scrutinised
the work of Trade Partners UK.
84. You are hoping that is going to solve the
(Sir David Wright) If there is a problem.
85. There seems to be a difference of perception
in the two arms, if nothing else, in Wales. I think what we need
to get on to is, is there a problem of substance rather than perception?
(Sir David Wright) I am not aware of there being a
problem of substance. As I said, the purpose of my visit to Cardiff
in July was to follow up the bringing of Invest UK into our organisation
and, therefore, to spend some time with the WDA, with whom I had
not previously had any professional relationship in this job.
So I was seeking to demonstrate to the WDA that at the highest
level in British Trade International we were applying ourselves
to their interests. I have had, and continue to haveand
I did so with the Chairman of the WDA only six weeks agocontinuous
dialogue with them about particular issues. So I am not aware
that there is a problem of substance. I do not know whether Mr
Morgan wants to add something.
(Mr Morgan) I do not think there is a problem of substance,
though I do agree with your comment about the tensions that can
arise in inward investment cases. I, of course, have a relationship
with 12 development agencies, all of whom at some time or other
tell me that I am not doing enough for them and am doing too much
for someone else. I think that is going to be part of the nature
of representing the whole of the United Kingdom. In Invest UK
and, also, in the WDA, we have put a lot of effort over the last
couple of years into improving relations, and I have worked very
closely with the WDA's International Services Director. I hope
the WDA feel that they have a channel where if there is any problem
they can raise it with us and we will address it. Could I just
pick up one earlier point about systematic approaches? One thing
we have done is set up an international training manager to try
and make more systematic our visits back by our overseas teams.
One consequence of this is that another devolved administrationnot
Waleshas actually already decided to say to us that they
are now getting too many visits. We have not reached that point
in Wales, I am very pleased to say, and I hope we never do, because
I think it is vital that our teams are able to get back and see
Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the regions.
86. Just from someone who has no expertise in
this field, I cannot see why there should be more tensions in
trying to attract investment in between different regions of the
United Kingdom than there is in promoting trade. Presumably, there
are the same competitions between different parts of the country.
(Sir David Wright) I would like to ask Ian Jones to
comment on whether there are particular trading competitions between
regions. I think there is a history to this. I think that the
history is now being played out in the way in which foreign direct
investment is developed in the United Kingdom. When I was first
dealing with these mattersagain, in relation to some of
the large investments in South Wales in Japan in the 1980swe
were talking then of very considerable job creation projects;
we were talking of thousands if not several thousands of jobs.
There is no doubt at all that the nature of inward investment
promotion has significantly shifted in the last 15 years. So that
the scale of projects and the nature of the projectsoften
add-ons, often small R&D projects, often small corporate strategy
groups, European headquarters and the likehas tended to
mean that the overall impact on the local economy of a new investment
is now probably less than it was 15 years ago. Not that that,
in any way, diminishes the value of those investments, but we
are no longer talking of investments which would transform the
employment prospects of a particular area in a region. So I think,
to some extent, we are living with that as the history, and we
are progressively moving to a situation in which the large number
of projects now coming on stream are much smaller and, therefore,
perhaps, less inclined to give rise to some of the tensions which
we certainly saw in the 1980s. To take up your point, I do not
know whether Ian would like to add whether this is true or not
of trade promotion.
(Mr Jones) I think I would just observe that many
of the companies that both we and Wales Trade International who
sit on the trade promotion side see are quite small companies,
and they perhaps do not seem to see themselves as being in competition
one with another in quite the same way, because they are fishing
in an extremely large pool of international trade. So it is not
a question of a perhaps more limited number of inbound projects.
I do not have a perception within, for example, the English regions
of competition in a very headline sense. Obviously there is a
certain amount of competition between people, but I think there
is quite a lot of a sense of people having some common interests
in operating overseas and trying to help small businesses to understand
how they are getting into overseas markets. So a lot of the issues
are common ones. That may have something to do with why there
is less of a sense of any tension, if that tension needs to exist.
87. How do you see the working relationship
between Trade Partners UK and Wales Trade International developing
(Sir David Wright) I could identify a number of areas.
I will list some and see if Ian can add to them. I mentioned a
moment ago the trade development schemes which we are building
up. There has already been Welsh company participation in the
precursor of what I described, called Export Explorer, and I believe
something like 25 companies have taken part in two Export Explorer
missions from Wales over the last year. This is an interesting
example of an area where nationally, as the United Kingdom, we
provide schemes which can be accessed on an independent basis,
in a sense, and on a separate basis, by companies within Wales,
Scotland or Northern Ireland. That is one example. I think we
are going to see much more of that in the trade development area,
because I am very conscious, too, that particularly in central
and northern Wales there is a real challenge for Wales Trade International
to develop some of the small companies that exist there and to
enhance their export potential as a way of building their business.
A second area where I believe we want to see more activity is
over interchange between the two organisationsinterchange
of personnel. We are already doing a certain amount of this. We
have a short-term attachment scheme to embassies overseasOverseas
Attachment Schemeinto which two officials from Wales Trade
International have taken part recently. This gives them an experience
of a foreign market, it gives them an experience of how a commercial
section overseas works, and they have then gone back to WTI. We
are also doing some joint training courses with Wales Trade International.
There was a course last month to introduce new WTI personnel to
the management and structures of what the Government does on this.
I think, in building on that, I would also like to see some Wales
Trade International people working in the head office of British
Trade International here in London. Ian may have some other suggestions.
(Mr Jones) I would briefly add to that. As you said,
the Trade Development Programme, I think, has been a very good
example of working together where colleagues from Wales Trade
International have been engaged in that process, and we have worked
with both them and colleagues from Scottish Trade International
and the Northern Ireland equivalent in developing the programme.
That programme is available for companies in Wales to come and
have a look at. There is an option there for Wales Trade International
to take that programme forward if they would like to do so. One
of the other examples I might give of colleagues working together
in a way that suggests there is good confidence, if you like,
is one of my colleagues having recently assisted in the recruitment
of Wales Trade International's new Director. So there, again,
you have an example of where there is sufficient mutual confidence
in the process and a recognition that we are both working very
much in the same area for us to be working very closely together.
That kind of thing helps encourage relationships for the future.
88. How important is your working relationship
with overseas diplomatic representation in the process of attracting
or promoting foreign trade and inward investment?
(Sir David Wright) It is absolutely crucial. The structure
which we are putting together has, effectively, three parts to
it. It has a centre, which is where the Trade Partners UK and
Invest UK have their main strategy units and their main operational
units; it has the regions, with our regional trade directors and
our relationships with the three devolved administrations, and
then, crucially, the overseas delivery network, which is the 217
FCO posts overseas in 140 markets, where there are Foreign Office
and, also, DTI staff based, who are the frontline troops in all
this. So we attach great importance to our relationship with them.
Let me tell you three ways in which I think that is particularly
effective. We set their objectives for a particular market, they
agree their objectives for that market in terms of both trade
and investment promotion. We have a hand in their appointment.
A member of the staff of British Trade International sits on the
Foreign Office's appointment boards before staff are sent overseas
to do commercial work, from ambassadors downwards. Of course,
the delivery of services such as charged services, tailored market
reports, which companies might need to have in order to penetrate
a foreign market, is all done by our overseas posts.
89. You might have misunderstood my question.
It is my fault. I take on board what you said, but with regard
to foreign diplomatic representation in the United Kingdom.
(Sir David Wright) I apologise.
90. No, no, what you said, I am sure, is perfectly
helpful anyway, but the point I was getting at is how important
is it to establish good relations with foreign diplomats in the
United Kingdom in this process?
(Sir David Wright) We have a set of relationships
of a differing nature, depending upon, I think, the market and
our position in it. I have fairly regular exchanges with my counterparts,
particularly in Western Europe, who run their trade and investment
promotion organisations. I often find myself in touch with their
embassies here in London to explain the nature of our own activities
and the nature of our own priorities. We also have some fairly
constructive relationships with certain embassies where we are
trying to work together with those countries to promote their
interests in the United Kingdom. An example which comes to mind
is, again, I am afraid, Japanese, but the Action Japan Campaign
is run bilaterally, really, between the British and Japanese Governments
and, therefore, the Jetro Office in London is an important collaborator
of Trade Partners UK that deals with the Japanese market. We have
a similar relationship, for instance, with the Canadian High Commission,
who have been very heavily involved in our Export Canada campaign
over the last year, and indeed I think a couple of months ago
there was an Export Canada promotion in Wales to promote the Canadian
market for Welsh companies. The same, I think, is now true of
our attempts to attract more trade and investment with China,
and we have a good relationship with the Chinese trade promotion
here in London. I could list a variety of others.
91. What I was driving at was this really, a
simple question: Do you believe that the lack of overseas diplomatic
representation in Wales compared with other parts of the United
Kingdom, there are only two diplomatic representations in Cardiff,
do you not think that does, in fact, place Wales at a disadvantage
in comparison with the other countries in the United Kingdom?
(Sir David Wright) The short answer is, no, I do not.
I have seen no evidence to suggest that it does. I come back to
what I said almost at the outset; I believe that the distinctiveness
of Wales and the capacity of the success which Wales has had in
promoting itself in other markets, where it has a particular interest
to promote, has been successful enough to obviate any particular
effect which you might refer to.
92. You mentioned some of the attachments, can
you tell us if there has been a programme of staff secondment
within the BTI, National Assembly, WDA and the Welsh Trade International,
and would you consider setting up such a secondment?
(Sir David Wright) There has not been a programme
as such. The examples I gave a moment ago were individual cases
where we have used the relationship to have exchanges. We are
now talking with the National Assembly for Wales on a structured
basis to try and set up a programme.
93. When you say "National Assembly"
does that officials or Members of the Assembly?
(Sir David Wright) It means officials, insofar as
they are the people who are delivering services.
94. Do you think that there is any scope for
Parliamentary links between elected members? You may remember,
Sir David, that we last met on a rugby field in Tokyo. I gave
you the hospital pass that might have ended your rugby career,
but I think that, by all accounts, it was a successful visit by
a group of Parliamentarians to establish sporting as well as other
links with Japan.
(Sir David Wright) I apologise for failing to recall
that painful event recorded on video. I happen to believe that
the role which Parliamentarians can play in their relations with
other Parliamentarians internationally can never be over-estimated.
There is a huge opportunity for Parliamentarians to promote both
visibility, to build on existing reserves of affection and to
pin-point particular areas which may need attention at any time.
I think that visits overseas by either Westminster Members or
the members of the devolved assemblies can only be to the good.
I believe that when they take place they are occasions on which
the support of the United Kingdom representation overseas for
that particular section of interest of the United Kingdomwhether
it be Wales or whether it be the North-Eastcan be enhanced.
95. On that happy note, Sir David, we will draw
this session to a close. Thank you very much for coming.
(Sir David Wright) Chairman, thank you very much.