Tonight is all about celebrating international success. And who better to talk to us than Dr Madeleine Albright.
The award, this year, of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was yet another accolade to add to the many given over many years in recognition of Dr Albright’s contribution to international relations. A distinguished US ambassador to the UN, Dr Albright was later unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the first female Secretary of State in 1997, becaming the highest-ranking woman in US government history.
Madeleine - you are quoted as saying that ‘in order to be a successful negotiator you have to be able to put yourself into the other person’s shoes. Unless you can understand what is motivating them, you are never going to be able to figure out how to solve a particular problem.’
During your 4-year tenure as Secretary of State you proved your ability to do this time and time again.
Reinforcing US alliances.
Promoting US trade, business and environmental standards abroad.
But above all championing democracy and human rights across the world: most notably in Kosovo and the Middle East.
You have said, that ‘for somebody who loves foreign policy, being Secretary is the best job in the world’, but your work didn’t stop with the end of your tenure.
You continue to provide advice, expertise and insight. And we look forward to hearing from you today on the challenges and opportunities that you see lying ahead.
We were of course all glued to the events in the US earlier this week.
As a firm Obama supporter, I have no doubt that this has been a nerve-wrecking but rewarding week, as you watched the results come in while here in the UK.
I hope you will excuse us, however, if tonight here in Glasgow we focus on celebrating success a little closer to home and where better to do that than here in the Velodrome.
The superb Commonwealth Arena will host the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
The Olympics just a few short months ago showed the world what the United Kingdom can achieve both on and off the track. Our foremost cyclist, Sir Chris Hoy, along with countless others, made us all proud in the Summer. We are all determined that the Games here in Glasgow in 2014 will be just as successful and raise awareness of what Scotland has to offer around the globe.
Raising awareness of Scotland’s capabilities is just one of the reasons why working with organisations like Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) is essential - not just for government - but any company with an interest in international business.
I would like to pay tribute to the work that Robert Armour, Lesley Sawers and their colleagues do day-in, day-out to help build Scotland’s international trade and business links.
The SCDI established back in 1931 was a very different organisation to the one that we see before us today. But what has remained constant is SCDI’s purpose: to strengthen Scotland’s economic competitiveness.
Robert, Lesley, you are both fantastic champions of this organisation and Scottish business. The UK government regards your work as vital, helping our companies develop the strength they need to compete globally:
Last year I experienced SCDI’s expertise first hand when I led Scotland’s biggest trade mission to Brazil.
We want to see UK exports to Brazil double by 2015. The trade mission allowed Scottish companies to showcase their services and establish links in this key high-growth market. I applaud your work.
SCDI’s work on the international stage has been hugely significant for Scottish companies down the generations and under your auspices tonight we rightly recognise the international achievements of Scottish companies.
Everyone here understands how tough the economic conditions are across the world. So, that makes the success we celebrate tonight even more impressive.
This is a time of real international uncertainty and instability and the United Kingdom is not immune to what is going on in its biggest export markets.
Ongoing difficulties in the Eurozone, and the wider global economy, present challenges as we attempt to rebalance our economy and our public finances, and build a better future.
We welcome last month’s UK GDP (Gross Domestic Product) figures showing a return to growth in the third quarter of this year.
But weak global confidence and nervous financial markets mean that we cannot be complacent.
That is why the UK government, has made it a priority to set out an unequivocal message to our international partners:
- Britain is open for business
- open to innovators and entrepreneurs
- open to investment.
Boosting export levels for both goods and services is one part of the picture - and that’s why, in the UK, we are aiming to increase our exports to £1 trillion annually by 2020.
It is an ambitious target and I intend Scotland to play its full part in reaching it.
[That is one of the reasons I have asked Brian Wilson, the former Trade Minister, to conduct a review of Scottish exporting as part of the work of the Scottish Business Board.
Brian is bringing his many years of business expertise to bear on considering what more we can do to ensure that Scottish businesses get the support they need to export their way to growth.]
No other relationship demonstrates the power of international links than our special relationship with the United States.
The facts speak for themselves. Britain and the US are the largest investors in each other’s economies; enjoying the largest Foreign Direct Investment relationship in the world.
UK companies currently provide employment for around one million people in the US - roughly the same figure as American companies in Britain.
And there are some really encouraging examples of Scottish businesses soaring ahead:
Craneware, an Edinburgh healthcare technology company, now works with nearly one-quarter of US hospitals. The company has more than doubled its revenue in the US since 2005 and reported strong profits again last month.
Weir Group, based in Glasgow, continues to expand into the US. In the past year the company has acquired two specialist oil and gas companies in Texas while posting a record order book and profits 30%t higher than the previous year.
But this is not a one way relationship - there are plenty of examples of US firms investing here in Scotland, supporting not only our businesses but also investing in our future: SCDI’s own Young Engineers Club active in more than 180 Scottish schools is sponsored by US Energy giant Chevron.
In 2010 alone, Scotland exported an estimated £3.5 billion of goods and services to the US, and we must continue to build on that success.
But I believe our relationship holds even greater potential.
Scottish, UK and indeed EU wide-recovery will go hand-in-hand with that in America.
As free-trading, outward-looking, democratic nations our futures remain intertwined.
We have the prospect next year of establishing a free trade agreement between the EU and the US that will build on the strong trade links that we already have between the UK and the US.
We share a commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Together, we can create new jobs, business and prosperity for all our peoples.
And I look forward to future award ceremonies where we will continue to recognise and reward Scotland’s success.
But that is for another day: tonight is about rewarding success in the here and now.
This has been an historic week.
We saw how the world’s most powerful nation made its democratic decision on how it wishes to be led and governed over the next four years
In that time the USA and the world will face many challenges.
The way in which president Obama and his new team meet these challenges will affect us all
And in Madeleine Albright we are honoured to have someone with us who has been there before; someone who has faced those challenges, made those tough and, and at times lonely decisions.
Decisions that have in turn shaped our history.
That is what her successors in the new American administration will now have to do.
And that is why it is an honour to introduce her tonight for what will i am sure be a fascinating insight into the challenges the USA and the world now face.
Dr Albright - As Secretary of State for Scotland it gives me great pleasure to welcome to Glasgow a former Secretary of State for the World and to invite you to speak.