Mr Bhajanka, distinguished members of this important Chamber, ladies and gentlemen.
Many thanks for inviting me to be with you all this morning. I arrived in Kolkata last September and was immediately impressed by this great city –with its rich history, culture and heritage.
This is a city where the connections with the UK are deeply rooted and historic. But I’m pleased to say that the connections remain vibrant and have a bright future.
Kolkata has an impressive range of dynamic and fast growing businesses here, many with UK links that we want to strengthen and grow.
It is heartening to know too about the sheer scale of ambition and optimism in this part of India. Kolkata’s strategic location as a gateway to Eastern and North East India has long made this an essential business hub.
More and more, India’s Look East Policy and the opening up of markets in neighbouring countries are adding a new vibrancy and dimension to the business environment here.
Mr Bhajanka, let me thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you all at such an important and exciting time for this great country.
India, the world’s largest democracy, has just risen to one of the greatest challenges any democracy can face: the peaceful and orderly transfer of power in accordance with the democratically expressed will of its people. An election, on an extraordinary and unprecedented scale, conducted freely and fairly, delivered a clear and decisive result. The new government in Delhi has a strong mandate to pursue and deliver the economic growth that India deserves.
We in the United Kingdom want to be a key partner for India as she embarks on this new chapter in her remarkable history. My Prime Minister, David Cameron, was the first world leader to speak to Mr Modi to congratulate him on his election victory. He has invited Mr Modi to London and looks forward to building the relationship between our countries further still. It is already in good shape. It can be stronger and deeper still.
India-UK: Role in flourishing business relationship
The trade relationship between India and Britain is flourishing. We are well on track to achieving the goal set by then PM Manmohan Singh and PM Cameron in 2010 of doubling bilateral trade by 2015.
And investment both ways is growing too. UK companies such as BP and Vodafone have made large investments in India. The UK is now the third largest investor in India and India is now the 5th largest investor in the UK. A number of factors are contributing to this growing relationship.
- We have common interests. A peaceful, prosperous and just world. A rules-based international order.
- We share a deep commitment to democracy, human rights, pluralism and inclusive development.
- We have shared history, values and language. We have the same bureaucracies and the same sense of humour.
- We are both committed to deepening the partnership between our two countries. My Prime Minister has now paid three visits to India since he took office in 2010, including one very successful visit to Kolkata in November last year.
While the relationship is already strong, wide and deep, I see genuine interest and commitment from both the countries to the future dynamics of the relationship to make it even stronger, wider and deeper. And we are seeing progress.
But I think we can and should do better. Given the ties between us, we should be much more ambitious. I see a real opportunity to create a partnership in a number of areas:
- India needs inward investment to build the country its people want: the UK specialises in raising and delivering investment capital.
- India needs infrastructure: roads, metros, railways, ports, airports: the UK specialises in infrastructure.
- India needs to build new cities and manage the successful expansion of its existing ones: the UK specialises in urban planning and architecture.
- India wants to create a bigger manufacturing sector at the top end of the value chain: the UK specialises in precisely the high tech manufacturing required.
- India needs power, from both traditional sources like coal, and oil and gas, and renewable sources like wind and solar power: we specialise in all those areas.
- India wants to educate the 500 million of its young people who will be coming onto the labour market in the next ten years: we specialise in education and skills.
- India wants better healthcare for its 1.2 billion people: the UK has great expertise in health and medicine.
- As Indian businesses become global players, they want the kind of international services which the UK offers: in banking, insurance, accountancy, law.
- India wants access to global markets. The UK is a great base from which to access the world’s largest single market, the EU; and the world itself via the City and the London Stock Exchange.
So there is a close match between what India wants and what the UK offers, and between what the UK wants and what India offers.
We see some real opportunities here in Eastern India and the UK companies are well placed to respond to this exciting business potential.
We are working with the local governments and businesses in many areas. I would like to highlight a few areas where we are actively engaging with the local players and see a very encouraging mix of opportunities.
The UK has real strength in the areas of urban growth, industrialisation and urban renewal, and in waterfront and heritage regeneration. The UK is a world leader in providing sustainable solutions in the infrastructure sector. India’s one trillion dollar plan to build new infrastructure creates exciting opportunities for UK companies to enter into partnerships with Indian industry. The private sector is playing a vital and growing role in this area of India’s development and Public private partnerships in large projects are becoming more and more the norm. Here too British companies have a great track record.
The infrastructure sector is already seeing some excellent partnerships between West Bengal and the UK. UK experts advised on the riverfront development a few years ago. And now at the invitation of the state government, UK experts will be involved in redevelopment of the historic Writers’ Building. Our strong and growing relationship with the city - and the UK’s proven expertise and leadership in regenerating urban infrastructure - explains why the West Bengal administration picked London – out of all the world’s great cities – as the benchmark for Kolkata’s development.
We are delighted that a UK consortium has won the contract to develop “Kolkata Eye”, which we hope will become one of main tourist attractions of the city. We also hope that more UK companies will come to Kolkata and participate in various projects that are being planned.
The UK has world-leading capabilities in aerospace, automotive and the full range of engineering disciplines – from advanced materials to a range of manufacturing technologies. We often feel the need to tackle the misconception that modern Britain doesn’t manufacture anything. So let me share with you that UK has the six largest manufacturing sector in the world. Manufacturing accounts for about 12% of our economy, roughly the same as the United States or France. Manufacturing contributes disproportionately to overall levels of productivity, generating over half (53%) of the UK’s export of goods. The UK is home to Europe’s largest aerospace industry, and the world’s second largest. Half of the world’s commercial aircraft have wings manufactured in the UK. More than 40 companies manufacture vehicles in the UK, ranging from global volume car, van, truck and bus builders, to specialist niche makers. The UK produces more than 1.6 million vehicles annually - 83 percent of cars and 57 percent of commercial vehicles were exported. Eight of eleven F1 teams are based in the UK.
UK engineering companies of all sizes do business across the world, supplying a wide range of end users that include the aerospace, automotive, chemicals, construction, food, healthcare, oil and gas, mining, pharmaceutical, power, printing and publishing, and steel industries.
In Eastern India, a number of UK companies are working closely with the mining, metals and minerals and steel industries in areas ranging from geological surveys to supply of most advanced underground mining equipment, and from blast furnace technologies to high end automation and process control solutions for the iron and steel, and aluminium industries.
UK vocational skills and training providers have over a hundred years of experience in delivering world class skills to people around the globe. The UK has the capacity to deliver at scale – delivering skills to over 3 million learners a year in the UK alone. And delivering skills to countless more in the one hundred other countries.
Developing a more skilled workforce is critical to India’s future development. I’m proud that India is already host to many of the UK’s most experienced and innovative skill development providers. They are providing policy advice, technical assistance and capacity building; curriculum and content development; train the trainer programmes; evaluation and certification.
Climate change and energy:
The UK Government recognises climate change as a fundamental threat to global prosperity and security. Tackling climate change is an economic as well as an environmental imperative.
I’m delighted that Climate Change is a key theme of my government’s partnership with the Government of West Bengal. Together we have been working on a number of initiatives to support low carbon and climate-resilient policies of the State.
- We have worked together on a first of its kind project to put in place fiscal instruments and incentives to support low carbon development.
- We have worked together to scale up low carbon energy efficient LED technology in street lighting.
- And we have worked together to develop a Renewable Energy Policy for West Bengal. UK teams are now working with the State Department of Power on harnessing renewable energy.
During UK Prime Minister Mr David Cameron’s visit to Kolkata last year, the UK Minister for Climate Change and Energy and Business Engagement with India, Mr Greg Barker signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Kolkata Municipal Corporation to collaborate in the development of a sustainable, low carbon and climate resilient Kolkata. The UK Government has allocated £ 1 million for implementing this one-of-its-kind programme with Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
The UK has one of the strongest and most productive life sciences industries in the world, contributing to patient well-being as well as supporting growth. The industry is high-tech, innovative and highly diverse, spanning pharmaceuticals, medical technology, biotechnology, and industrial biotechnology, with further applications across many other sectors. The UK is the world leader in healthcare education and training, being home to 29 medical schools, including many deemed to be world class, and 19 Royal Colleges.
The UK healthcare service providers are working in close partnership with Indian stakeholders across a wide range of exciting commercial opportunities across the country. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is working with the health department, Government of West Bengal on joint accreditation of a diploma programme in family medicine. This programme is presently running in its pilot phase.
UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2013 confirms the UK’s strong position as a top global destination for foreign direct investment, and demonstrates the confidence and trust that foreign investors have in the UK business environment and economic recovery plan.
I’m pleased to say that the UK economy is now growing faster than any other major economy. And we have the lowest level of Corporation Tax in the G7, which is just one of the reasons that the World Bank’s Doing Business 2012 survey ranked the UK as the easiest major European economy in which to set up and run a business.
We are proud of our vibrant business culture and an environment that supports innovation and entrepreneurship. With one of the most open and dynamic business environments in the world, the UK is both a major market in its own right and the perfect base for entrepreneurs to globalise their businesses. That’s why the UK has secured more Indian investment than the rest of the European Union combined.
The UK government is doing more than ever to successfully attract entrepreneurs from around the world, especially from emerging economies like India. An important part of that investment comes from this region of India but there can and should be much more. Many of you have plans to grow your business globally and we will be most happy to discuss how your business can benefit from a business presence in the UK.
Many thanks once again for your invitation. I very much appreciate these opportunities to connect to key local companies and listen to their views on the business potential and environment. We would be keen to know your growth plans and see what role the UK can play to help you progress on these plans.