BEING the Lord Mayor of the City of London is an all-consuming role; in the past 11 and a half months, I have visited 40 cities in 22 different countries across the globe, delivering around 900 speeches promoting not just the Square Mile, but the whole of the UK-wide financial and professional services industry.
I came into this job determined to move forward the City’s international agenda and to take up David Cameron’s challenge to use commercial diplomacy as a means through which to strengthen the bilateral trade and investment relationships between the UK and its overseas partners.
I would like to think that significant progress has been made towards achieving these goals and that we have pushed forward the government’s High Value Opportunities initiative, working hard to improve links between the City and other industries in fields such as high-tech, innovation, creative industries and manufacturing.
One thing that has become abundantly clear during my time overseas is that the City is still regarded as the best place in the world to come to live and work and has retained its ability to attract investment from across the globe; the City of London is very much the City of Choice – my theme for the year.
This international reputation for excellence is something we need to continue to protect and build upon in order to generate long-term sustainable growth in the UK.
With our countries already enjoying a close business relationship, the current situation with regards to India illustrates this point perfectly.
More than 700 Indian companies already have investments in the UK while 12 Indian banks operate in London and 71 Indian companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
However, this relationship could be stronger. David Cameron recently announced a target to double bilateral trade to £24bn by 2015, and I would like to see even more Indian companies looking to the UK – with its international markets and reputation for openness – as the environment that best suits their business needs.
With the inevitable reorientation of the global economy towards the emerging markets in the East, it is not just inward investment that needs to be encouraged – it is vital that the UK remains the partner of choice for these countries in the decades to come.
The past year has seen some significant socioeconomic developments in India – not least the announcement that the government is aiming to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure development by 2017 – in an effort to sustain the incredible pace of growth seen over the past decade, and to provide vital services for the huge numbers of people who are migrating to India’s cities.
The City has a huge amount of experience in advising, financing, structuring and delivering infrastructure deals across the world, and UK firms are perfectly positioned to play a key role in helping India to achieve its ambitious goals both for 2017 and beyond.
By working together in such a manner, the UK and India can enjoy the mutual benefits of our long-standing business relationship and help generate jobs and growth not only in our own countries but across the globe.
Michael Bear is the Lord Mayor of the City of London.