The Economic Times: David Cameron
February 4, 2011
When I visited your country last summer, I came with a very clear purpose: to take the relationship between India and the UK to the next level — to make it stronger, wider and deeper. This week, our two countries are making good on that promise. Yesterday in Downing Street, we held the first ever UK-India CEO Forum, bringing together business leaders from our two countries and giving them the chance to exchange ideas, develop links and seize opportunities. Why does this matter? From a British perspective, it’s clear.
I’m determined that as we emerge from recession, we build a new economic model in our country. A model based on balanced growth between different industries and regions, where we see more exports and higher investment. To get there, we need to connect ourselves to the fastest-growing parts of the world.
And, quite simply, they don’t get much faster than India. In the past four years, your average rate of growth has been 8% — and that presents great opportunities for Britain. We are already feeling that power back home. The Tata Group is now one of the largest manufacturing employers in Britain. And Indian investments in the UK in the last financial year generated over 3,000 new jobs and safeguarded a further 2,500. So, deepening our ties further means even more jobs and more growth back home.
But this isn’t a one-way street. As you look to grow your economy in the years ahead, the UK has practical attractions for India too. We speak the world’s language. We are still the world’s sixth largest manufacturer and the best base for companies wanting to do business in Europe. We have some of the best universities in the world and we are a great hub for science and innovation.
And let’s not forget, we not only have the strengths of our history — our democracy , rule of law and strong institutions — but a modern dynamism too. We’re the nation that helped pioneer the internet, unravel the DNA code and whose music, films and television are admired the world over. All of these things can mean so much opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs.
The question is: where should the focus of our attention be? When it comes to economic cooperation, I think two areas clearly stand out. First, we should encourage more investment by Indian companies in Britain — and vice versa. Both of us already benefit so much. JCB, BAE, Wipro and Infosys are just some of the companies who do business across our countries.
But I want to see more Indian companies setting up in Britain and more British companies setting up in India. And let’s be clear: that will only come when we take some difficult decisions.
We’ve both got to take on some vested interests and open up our markets. We in Britain have to welcome your expertise in car manufacturing and steel production; I hope you in India will reduce the barriers to foreign investment in legal services, defence , banking and insurance.
The second area we need to cooperate is on trade. This is the single biggest stimulus we could give our economies right now. To be fair, things are improving. India-UK trade went up by more than two-thirds between 2004 and 2009, and now stands at more than $11 billion a year. But things could still be so much better.
Today, the UK still trades more with Sweden than it does with India. Is that good enough? I don’t think so. That’s why yesterday, at the UKIndia CEO Summit, I agreed a new bold target to double trade between our two countries by 2015.
Setting the target is one thing, getting there is quite another. There are some relatively simple steps we can take, like streamlining customs red tape to save time and money — and we’re committed to it. Other things will take more time — not least, working for international trade agreements at Doha and between the EU and India. But whatever the circumstances , some big questions still need to be answered.
Are there specific sectors where we can be more ambitious? Are there any quick-wins ? What are the real obstacles to trade that exist between our two countries ? That’s why, as part of their remit, the UK-India CEO Forum is going to take a long look at this whole area and report back their answers to Prime Minister Singh and me in the summer.
This is an exciting time for the UK-India partnership. It finally feels that after years of talking about strengthening, we’re actually getting on with doing it. Of course, in the end, it will be results that matter — the ties that are developed between our people; the investment that occurs; the jobs that are created.
But we’ve made a bold start in 2011, and I’m more confident than ever that the relationship between our two countries could be one of the defining relationships of this century.