Trading with the world
Ian Bell – Executive Director, Bath Chamber of Commerce and the Initiative in B&NES.
Internationalisation seems to be the theme of the moment with businesses being encouraged to look further afield for commercial opportunities. Locally, over the last couple of weeks we’ve had a couple of significant visits from people abroad and of course we are starting the run up to the referendum which will decide whether or not we stay in the European Union.
The first of the visits was a delegation from Jiangxi Province in China, with whom the Council signed a friendship agreement about six years ago. The idea was that by having close contacts with the Provincial Government it would make things easier for our businesses to win contracts. What the Chinese delegation made clear was they were very interested in doing business with companies in the UK and they were especially keen on hearing from people with expertise right across the green agenda. If you think you would like to find out more please let me know and I will put you in touch with the right people – email@example.com
The second visit was from Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for the Environment, who came to Bath to hear about our problems with poor air quality in some areas. He heard that the root cause was the amount of traffic coming through the centre of the city and the associated congestion. I took the opportunity to stress that the business community was acutely aware of the issue, but that getting people into and out of the city was essential if we are to continue with vital economic growth. That means better public transport and not only more park and ride capacity, but possibly controversially, park and rides available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Now the General Election is out of the way, focus will more and more shift to the Euro Referendum. The latest Economic Survey carried out by Business West indicated a majority of businesses wanted to stay in Europe and that proportion rises if David Cameron can pull off the changes he is attempted to make. However, the debate is bound to take many turns between now and voting day. This is the time for all businesses to consider whether international trade is for them and if it is, whether being part of Europe is a help or whether looking globally, for example to China, is the better option.