It’s such a pleasure to be back in Kochi. This is my 10th visit to Kerala, and 8th to Kochi. I understand why you call it God’s own country. And I’m glad that the visit by Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall was the start of a closer relationship with Kerala.
That’s why it’s such a pleasure to be here to open this Great British festival.
The Great brand showcases the best of British business, culture, tourism and performing arts.
I’m sorry that the Chief Minister - who has had to shift his Cabinet meeting to today as he was in Delhi all week - and the new Governor who is similarly occupied, could not join us as a result of important elections coming up - I know from working for British ministers, that politicians lives are not easy ones.
GREAT supports the UK’s goal of being India’s partner of choice, including by doubling trade between our two countries, by 2015.
We’re on track: last year, UK exports to India were up 14% and India’s exports to the UK were up 2%. The UK is the biggest European Union investor in India, and India invests more in the UK than it does to the rest of the EU combined.
In Kerala, I’m proud that UK visitors to the State are - once again - higher than from any other country.
Big brand names like HSBC, Vodafone, Rentokil, OCS Group, Jaguar Land Rover are all here with us today.
We have a big ICT footprint in Kerala, including companies like Allianz, RM Education Solutions and TestHouse. TRL, the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory, is working with Experian Technologies to reduce road deaths in India.
In advanced engineering, companies like FG Wilson, TWI and GSH have operations here in Kochi. I was here for the inauguration of Expelair last year.
In Built Environment, Sweett Group and TRL, along with Atkins and Mott MacDonald who were both closely involved in the building of the Lulu Mall where I and much more attractive people such as my wife will be modelling the best of British fashion this afternoon, including Wigomania, Wilmax England, Marks and Spencers, Vision Express and Savile Row’s tailor to the stars Whitcomb and Shaftesbury.
We also have Vectair Systems, Kannis, The Converging World and luxury travel brand Abercrombie and Kent. Costa is one UK retail brand that opened in Kochi as recently as last month and are also here with us today along with Sab miller.
The UK’s university sector is a research power house, creating innovative, timely solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. I’m pleased that London Metropolitan University and Middlesex University - my alma mater - are here. And as everyone knows four of the best universities in the world are in the UK. The Institute of Commercial Management and Certification International are also here with us in Kerala.
Business is a two-way street. Britain offers one of the most open, vibrant global economies providing the best location to grow internationally. That’s why we are as keen to encourage companies to invest in the UK.
The UK and India already enjoy a rich and deep relationship. So we are confident that today we will start building new partnerships between our two countries. The British Deputy High Commission stands ready to work with you. I wish you all a very successful day.