Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here today at the inaugural ‘Made in Wales’ Award Dinner.
I congratulate Wales Business Insider for having the vision to bring this event together to celebrate the many and varied products that we produce here in Wales.
Wales Looking Outwards
It is right that we draw attention to what we are producing in Wales. I am a strong believer in Wales talking to the world and promoting itself in the global marketplace. We need to do more of this.
Global brands like Airbus and GE, based here in Wales, are already doing this. But I want to see more smaller business doing it too. Wales is already a good place to do business, and we are committed to making Wales an even better place to do business.
But we cannot do that without our plan to reduce the deficit and restore the UK’s credibility on international markets. Earlier this month, the rating agency Standard and Poor reaffirmed the UK’s AAA rating, whilst downgrading a number of other countries.
This confirms that we must stay committed to our programme of fiscal consolidation and the reduction of the deficit. This is a highly competitive market place and a tough economic climate. But our plan was designed in tough times, for tough times.
Our plan has brought stability and confidence to the economy. It has held down the costs of borrowing for businesses and homeowners. Abandoning the plan now would put all that has been achieved at risk.
We recognise that it will be the private sector, like you, who will lead the economic recovery in the UK. We are committed to a pro-business, pro growth agenda - this was outlined in our Plan for Growth published earlier this year.
We are building on the Plan for Growth through direct action such as the further cut to corporation tax we have already implemented. Over the next four years, we will cut the rate annually, bringing it to 23% - the lowest in the G7. We are securing access to finance for businesses through our Project Merlin agreement with the big UK High Street banks and we are investing in infrastructure - £1 billion to electrify the Great Western Mainline into South Wales and £56.9 million to expand and improve broadband infrastructure across Wales.
That is what we are doing to help make the economic environment right for businesses - and in Wales we need to build on that. Let us capitalise on the Welsh brand, now and over the next twelve months whilst Wales, and the rest of the UK, is in the global spotlight.
Globally, the economic recovery is fragile, particularly given the instability in the Eurozone. But, as we proved in Auckland last weekend, we are a small nation that can stage an epic fight back in times of adversity.
We need to be positive about what we have in Wales rather than looking to what we don’t have. As the Prime minister said when he opened the Airbus North Factory last week, we need to go back to “making things” in Wales.
Tonight’s award ceremony is that concept personified. We need more businesses in Wales like yours - and we need more products like yours out in the global marketplace.
Exporting Welsh Products
That is the core of our UK Trade and Investment Strategy, ‘Britain Open for Business’ that we published in May. It is our long-term strategic vision for how government can help companies do what they do best - expand and grow - through overseas trade.
We have set out how UKTi will work with you to identify the barriers faced in high growth markets, and how we will make sure our diplomatic resources and ministerial visits focus on eliminating these barriers to trade.
I recognise that many of you here tonight are already highly successful in the export market, and there is much that smaller companies in Wales can learn from. That is why we want to target UKTI’s services at innovative and high growth SMEs to encourage more companies to export, as well as helping existing exporters reach more of the high growth and emerging markets.
And we want to win high value opportunities in overseas markets for UK businesses of all sizes. For my part, I am passionate about telling the world about the great products and creative innovation that we have in Wales. And I am working with the Welsh government so that together we can promote Wales and show the world that Wales is truly open for business.
We are striving to be the most pro-growth government in living memory and we want businesses like yours to be at the heart of this. You are proof that we can still ‘make things’ in Wales and that we intend to continue to be at the cutting edge of innovation in the future.
These new awards, along with the Fast Growth 50 Awards, are a perfect opportunity to celebrate what is good in Wales. They allow us to showcase the brightest and the best of what Welsh Businesses have to offer.
I am so very proud to be able to support you in this inaugural awards ceremony and to be a part of this initiative from the very start. I have huge confidence, and pride, in Welsh Businesses and I am looking forward to the exciting evening.
Thank you for inviting me to speak this evening and I wish you all every success, both in these awards tonight, and in the year ahead.