DURING my travels as Lord Mayor, I have sampled many cocktails at home and abroad. During my recent business mission to the Far East, I had a particularly fine one – a bright concoction known as the Singapore Sling, offered to me in the place where it was first mixed.
It represents globalisation in a glass: London Dry Gin meets pineapple from Brazil, lime from the Middle East, bitters from Trinidad and Tobago and cherry liqueur from Denmark, all shaken with a touch of Cointreau and Benedictine from France.
The Sling shows the international character of Singapore. It is a remarkable concoction. But I see the City of London as shaken not stirred.
I have seen great goodwill towards the City and UK business across the world: we still have a strong reputation for reliability and quality. I am optimistic about the potential for the City and the UK, and optimistic about the strength of the financial services industry and its role in supporting the wider economy.
I promote the City in my travels around the world. But I’m also spending much more time than I expected on our expertise in infrastructure – design, engineering, project management, construction, as well as financing – and on UK manufacturing. We are still, after all, the sixth largest manufacturing country by value in the world. Throughout the UK, I have seen very high quality, world-beating, innovative businesses, some big, some small, but all doing well, with good products, good staff, good penetration and no difficulty in getting funding.
But my sense is also that the world is becoming more global and less global at the same time. We are seeing new and newly powerful groupings: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Arc of the Pacific, the TransPacific Partnership, countries in East Africa, North Africa and Turkey. The challenge, and the opportunity, for British business is to pursue these new channels to do business either bilaterally – for instance between the UK and Singapore – or to team up with smaller countries to do business in a bigger one. The UK might team up with Singapore to do business in China.
So we must maximise these opportunities, not least by working closely with the government to guarantee the stability, predictability and clarity that business needs and that will continue to attract international business to London.
Next week, I will host the chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England at Mansion House for the annual dinner for the bankers and merchants of the City of London. I will commit to work closely with government to deliver a stable and secure banking system, one that retains our international competitiveness and supports the wider economy in creating jobs and growth.
David Wootton is Lord Mayor of the City of London.