The City needs to think global

Michael Bear
THE hacking scandal has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but unfortunately that does not mean the challenges facing the global economy have disappeared – far from it.

Concerns continue over the UK recovery, the Eurozone crisis, and the protracted discussions on raising the US debt ceiling remain, even if the media spotlight has shifted elsewhere.

These issues all have potentially huge implications for the economic recovery. London is the most international financial centre in the world and will inevitably be affected by the problems affecting our major trading partners in an interconnected world.

But the global nature of markets today also presents considerable opportunities for City firms in emerging economies.

As I approach the final three months of my mayoralty, I have visited 16 countries, given over 700 speeches, and welcomed thousands of foreign guests to Mansion House. I have been struck by the scale of business opportunities available to UK plc in countries from South America to Asia.

We are at the beginning of a worldwide shift of wealth and power. In 2009, more than 70 per cent (£277bn) of the UK’s total exports went to the European Union, North America, Japan and Australasia, and these markets generated 77 per cent of our new investment projects.

But over the next five years, emerging economies are expected to account for over 50 per cent of global growth but only 13 per cent of the increase in net global public debt.

Exports and investment are key drivers for generating sustainable economic growth and much needed jobs. There is a real appetite for the skills and products that the UK financial, professional and business services industry has to offer.

In China, between 2008 and 2015, 75m households are joining the ranks of the middle class. By 2020, African consumers are projected to spend more on goods and services than Russia, and just slightly less than India. That is why I will reinforce the message that we want to be the international partner of choice, when I visit four African nations next month followed by Egypt and India in October.

In order to achieve this objective we must think outside of the box and not take our eye off the ball. So even as other issues monopolise the media spotlight, it is imperative that government and the City work together to build the relationships that will determine our future economic prosperity.

Michael Bear is Lord Mayor of the City of London