As I enter my final fortnight as lord mayor, I have spent some time reflecting on my year in office.
I have been privileged to witness and support many areas of commercial progress during my international visits, domestic travels, and here in the City of London. I am also greatly looking forward to a number of events this November, including this week’s state visit from the President of Colombia and recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate Juan Manuel Santos.
On Wednesday, President Santos will address industry leaders at a business forum in Mansion House in the City of London, highlighting our strong bilateral trade links and two-way investment between the UK and Colombia. Colombia is a priority partner for the UK in Latin America; one to which we export more than £525m in goods and services every year. British business has been growing strongly in the country, with more than 100 UK firms on the ground – including Virgin, BT, Shell, and many small and medium-sized organisations.
However, there is much more to be done. Following the UK’s vote to exit the European Union, we must search the world for dynamic, growing countries with which we can expand bilateral trade. Colombia is poised for an unprecedented period of growth and prosperity, and, we hope, sustained peace. The City, as a global financial centre, can play an invaluable role in facilitating resilient development. I hope that Colombian entrepreneurs will come to the Square Mile, and benefit from our City’s deep pools of human and financial capital.
This year has been one that I like to describe as high octane and, over the last year, I have visited 26 countries and 12 regional cities – covering many miles, and having the opportunity to speak with thousands upon thousands of people – telling the story of UK financial and professional services.
As lord mayor, I have promoted and championed all that the City and UK can offer: world-class financial and professional services, the rule of law, unique expertise and innovation across so many fields, and exceptional educational institutions. Furthermore, the UK has so much to offer in the fields of culture, heritage and the arts. When I consider the whole, it comes as no surprise that London is the world’s leading financial centre.
During the year, I have also had the privilege of presiding over the anniversaries of several important events in our nation’s history, from the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It was a particular honour to welcome Her Majesty the Queen to the City of London to mark her 90th birthday. This special occasion gave the nation an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievement and service of someone who represents the very best of Great Britain.
As the first maritime lord mayor for 40 years, I was delighted to focus attention on the UK’s world-leading maritime industries. It is in all our interests that they remain strong and competitive. I am now pleased to pass the baton to Dr Andrew Parmley, who will become the next lord mayor on 11 November, and is a representative of our country’s education and arts sectors. I have no doubt that he will succeed in building bridges, and encouraging peace and prosperity for the years to come.