Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by The Welsh Development Agency


  This submission to the Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry into "Wales in the World" by the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) makes the following points:

    —  The WDA promotes and converts inward investment projects into Wales while offering widespread support for the start up and growth of indigenous firms.

    —  The WDA works in conjunction with a variety of government organisations based in Whitehall or in the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.

    —  Invest.UK (I.UK) is vital to the UK inward investment effort and is a body with whom the WDA seeks a close working relationship.

    —  Some key staff in both I.UK and diplomatic posts overseas would benefit from greater understanding and knowledge of Wales.

    —  The inward investment effort is based primarily in London and may miss the opportunity to promote the strengths and uniqueness of locations in Wales.

    —  Special events to promote Wales organised by the overseas posts of the FCO provide excellent opportunities to showcase the special characteristics of the Principality.

    —  Devolution has raised the profile of the special national identity of Wales, providing a new opportunity to promote the country to potential investors but extra resources from I.UK and FCO would be helpful in this process.


  The Welsh Development Agency (WDA) has supported business in Wales for 24 years. During that time, it has promoted and converted inward investment projects into Wales while offering widespread support for the start up and growth of indigenous firms.

  The WDA was previously answerable to the Secretary of State for Wales but the creation of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999, to which the WDA is now accountable, provides a new democratic framework. In 1998, the former WDA was enlarged, to take in the functions of the Development Board for Rural Wales and the Land Authority for Wales. The WDA believes there is a major role for the general promotion of Wales within its remit and that Welsh industry benefits from activity which raises the profile of Wales.

  The WDA has an International Division of approximately 65 staff, of which 25 are based overseas. It has permanent representation in overseas markets, including the USA, Canada, France, Belgium/Netherlands, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. In most markets it has local nationals as permanent staff, so that it can relate closely to local and national political, economic and cultural trends. The WDA also has representation through consultants in other major markets such as Germany, Sweden and China.

  With most of its representative offices located in the same region as FCO Embassies and Consulates, the WDA has developed operating and personal relationships with the overseas representatives of the UK Government. It also has strong relationships with foreign governments (both at national and local administrative levels as appropriate), Chambers of Commerce, trade associations, universities and cultural groups (especially those with a Welsh connection) and organisations representing all aspects of UK activity (such as the British Tourist Authority and the British Council) as well as with its customers and prospective investors.


  In the course of its activities, the WDA also works in conjunction with Government organisations based in Whitehall or in the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff. Examples include overseas trade promotion (jointly with Wales Trade International), tourism (with the British Tourist Authority and Wales Tourist Board), the film industry (with Sgrin, formerly Screen Wales), centres of scientific expertise and learning (with the British Council, Welsh universities and further education colleges) and music and opera (with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Welsh National Opera etc). The WDA also undertakes general relationship-building activity on behalf of the National Assembly, working closely with the Regional Links and International Relations Units.


  Wales has been notably successful historically in attracting inward investment as part of the Government's strategy to increase and broaden industrial and business sectors and as an integral part of the National Economic Development Strategy.

  Wales is developing as a dynamic and vibrant regional economy in Europe, based on the skills of its workforce, its industrial infrastructure and excellent communications (including high-level broadband connectivity), access to European markets and government support to business. As far as international companies are concerned this last is co-ordinated by the Welsh Development Agency which provides a full line of service and is the lead body for inward investment.

  The recent granting of Objective 1 status to a large part of Wales represents an additional major strategic opportunity for economic regeneration, both from the perspective of the economy of Wales and of the UK as a whole. The European Regional Funded programmes which result will be focused on economic and social regeneration programmes, especially those which reflect the priorities of the knowledge economy and emphasise the themes of social inclusion, sustainable development and equal opportunities.

  The attraction of internationally mobile inward investment plays an important part in these programmes.


  I.UK is the Executive Agency with which the WDA most frequently works. Based jointly in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, I.UK is part of the newly formed Trade Partners UK and is responsible for marketing the UK for inward investment. It has a successful track record and is a body which commands the general support of the WDA. However, there is some evidence that investment opportunities in Wales are not properly understood by key Foreign Office or DTI staff responsible for the referral of projects.

  Wales has been poorly supported through inward investment enquiries and visits from I.UK, particularly from the USA. In addition, there have been a number of high profile investment missions from Japan and Korea in the past two years which have not included Wales in their itinerary, in spite of the strong representation by companies from those countries in Wales and strong cases put forward for inclusion in visit itineraries into Wales for these missions.

  The WDA would like to see greater efforts by I.UK to hold inward investment missions and events in locations such as Cardiff, in order to promote major cities and regions outside of London. Furthermore, in order to remove the perceived London bias of I.UK, we propose that the I.UK bureau should be moved outside the UK capital. In addition, we perceive that overseas embassies sometimes over-promote the advantages of locating in London rather than representing the strength of regions such as Wales. It would be helpful if there were specific promotions on aspects of Wales such as the vibrant regeneration of Cardiff.

  We would suggest that a closer relationship in marketing strategy between I.UK and the WDA would give a better focus on the opportunities in Wales, especially those created by Objective I status.

  The WDA makes strong efforts to ensure that the overseas posts are aware of all opportunities in Wales. Regular briefings take place. Ambassadors and Consuls General often visit Wales on duty tours, on appointment or during their posting; such visits are very welcome although they tend to be brief and consequently there may be some room for improvement in the level of understanding and knowledge of Wales.

  The overseas posts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office also hold occasional promotional events, to which representatives from the WDA's overseas offices are invited. Such events sometimes include the involvement of British Government Ministers. However, these are mostly general promotions for the UK, for example the annual Queen's Birthday Party celebrations, and usually do not include specific provision for promotion of Wales but there have been some notable exceptions such as Paris in June 1999.

  In addition, the overseas posts of the FCO arrange special events to promote Wales in association with high profile visits by National Assembly leaders and WDA senior executives. Wales is usually showcased as an integral part of the UK, with special characteristics, which make it highly suitable and desirable as a location for international trade and investment activity. These visits give a valuable opportunity of raising the profile of Wales.

  Senior Foreign Office personnel, including Ambassadors and High Commissioners, frequently participate in such promotions. One recent successful example was a visit by the First Secretary, Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan MP, to Japan, during which both trade and investment opportunities were promoted through visits and seminars.


  In the course of its promotional activities, the WDA regularly contacts other bodies sponsored by the British Government, most notably the British Council and British Tourist Authority, in most cases to develop joint promotional activities.

  In both these cases, although there appears to be a willingness to work with us on joint promotions, limited resources and some unfamiliarity with the opportunities presented by the new Wales mean that it is difficult to obtain a good share of voice, unless the activity is promoted and sponsored by the counterpart body in Wales (ie the British Council in Wales, or the Wales Tourist Board).


  The impact of devolution has been to raise the profile of the national identity of Wales. Diplomatic posts have made increased efforts to contact the WDA and emphasise their desire to provide specific opportunities to promote Wales (particularly in the USA and Japan). These much-welcomed approaches are being followed up and put into action.

  The WDA, for its part, makes determined efforts to explain to both staff in the UK and in overseas posts the significance of devolution and the opportunities it presents. The WDA believes that more effort is required by I.UK and the FCO staff to become briefed on this subject.

  In summary, the main issue is the long standing lack of familiarity with what Wales has to offer. This coupled with the limited resources which Wales has to promote itself overseas means that it is difficult for Wales to obtain the profile it needs if it is to take advantage of the opportunities which devolution offers. There needs to be more effort taken by all UK Government departments and bodies which have overseas activities and influence to understand the unique strengths of Wales B its vibrancy, the extent of the transformation which has taken place, its culture and its language, the youthful "can do" spirit which has developed in recent years B and the challenges it faces B and to promote these internationally. This means an enhanced policy of co-operation with and support to organisations like the WDA, which already represent Wales overseas and have significant roles to play in its promotion.


  The WDA believes that Wales has an excellent story to tell in terms of turning investment opportunities into successful business ventures. Such ventures have provided quality jobs for the people of Wales and have contributed much to social and economic regeneration. We recognise, however, that there is still much more to do and commend the work of the Welsh Affairs Committee in moving this debate forward by undertaking this inquiry.

  The WDA has high regard for I.UK and for the efforts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry to promote Wales in the world. Much valuable activity takes place that we commend to the Committee. Events that work best are those which promote the special characteristics and uniqueness of Wales. A number of strategies are possible in order to address this, including the development of special marketing programmes to feature the opportunities presented by the new Wales.

W B Elliot

Chief Executive

13 October 2000

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