Foreign Office Minister for the Overseas Territories, Mark Simmonds, made the following speech to open the event:
It is a great pleasure to be able to join you here today and welcome you alongside DMA CEO Atam Sandhu and to thank him for his kind remarks and the work he and his team have put into organising the event today. I also welcome so many of the elected leaders of the Territories, which underlies their commitment to attracting investment and driving forward their economies.
It is gratifying to see so many businesses represented here today. Some of you may already have interests in one or more of the Territories, hopefully all of you will be curious, all I hope will give serious consideration to the opportunities that exist for your companies whether in infrastructure, energy, tourism or services.
When we published the White Paper on the Overseas Territories, Security, Success and Sustainability last year we noted how the Territories had made enormous strides in their economic development, whether through well-regulated financial services, fisheries or tourism.
It also set out an ambitious programme for both the UK and its Territories; an ambition for successful, economically sustainable, well-run and secure Territories. The UK is a supportive partner in this aspiration, sharing expertise in the public sector and recognising our fundamental responsibility and objective to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples.
On Tuesday we held our annual Joint Ministerial Council, an event which brings together Territory leaders with the UK Government. We examined how to address some of the most pressing challenges for the Territories, how to build and diversify economies and drive forward prosperity. We want the Territories to be flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity but at the same time creating new opportunities for their young people and future generations and to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the Overseas territories.
I have mentioned some of the sectors that have proved successful, i.e. finance, tourism, and sustainable fisheries. We want to build on these, but both we and the Governments of the Territories recognise that there are other significant opportunities.
Many of the Territories are looking to upgrade their existing infrastructure, whether it is ports and breakwaters, airport expansion or roads.
Most of the territories are islands and are dependent on importing expensive oil for their energy needs, yet they have an abundance of sun, wind and sea, or even geothermal energy. In fact all of the Territories are looking at green initiatives: waste disposal does not sound particularly glamorous, but there are opportunities here too, to turn waste to energy and indeed recycling.
Tourism is a mainstay of some of the Territories. There are opportunities for hotels and resorts and, as the Territories contain 90% of the combined biodiversity of the UK and the Territories put together, there is huge potential for developing the ecotourism sector. A draw for many of the American tourists who flock to the Territories is the British ‘brand’. British retail names would I believe find a ready supply of customers ready to part with their dollars to purchase British goods.
There are niche opportunities too, in agriculture, aquaculture, and specialist tourism. I understand that rum, well known in the Caribbean, is enjoying a resurgence in the trendier bars of London.
Then there are the hydrocarbons in the South Atlantic. As well as the extractives there will be a need for all of the supporting facilities that such an industry requires.
Finally, you may not know this, but all of the Territories have access to the EU single market through the Overseas Association Decision. Not just goods but services too from Territory firms have tariff and quota free access to the Single Market of 500 million people.
The key point is that the Territories are open for business, and that there are opportunities for firms of all sizes, small and medium size enterprises are as welcome as the large engineering and consulting firms.
No investments are risk-free of course, but in doing business in the Territories you can be reassured by the fact that most of the people are British citizens; almost all speak English; by the familiar common law legal system; the stability and maturity of their Governments – testament to the sophistication of their peoples; and the warm welcome that the peoples of these unique places offer.
I am immensely proud to be here today and to see so much interest in the Territories. So a final word of thanks to all of you who have come today and to the Governments of the Territories whose leaders and officials are very enthusiastic to talk business with you.
I would also like to thank FCO officials and OT people who have organised this event. It is a significant opportunity to drive economic growth and diversification in the Territories as well as helping drive the UK’s export-led economic recovery.