I write this column in the stunning Himalaya region of Nepal, where I am representing the UK’s financial and professional services industry.
Nepal and the United Kingdom have been friends for more than two centuries, sharing many aspects of heritage, culture and values. In this special year, the bicentenary of our diplomatic relations, I hope we can reaffirm those links as well as find and forge new ones.
As an ambassador for UK-based business, it is my job to help create the international links that encourage innovation and increase trade. With that in mind, I am in Nepal to meet business leaders and government ministers, and discuss how the City of London, the world’s leading financial centre, can support Nepal’s development in the decades to come.
Over the past few days, I have discussed so many exciting, high value opportunities for bilateral business, including Nepal’s impressive hydroelectric facilities and cutting-edge capabilities. Nepal’s infrastructure has come a long way in the past five years, but there are many more areas of important development need. For example, Nepal needs resilience and security of supply in power generation.
Business thrives in environments which offer reliability and consistency, so solving this problem and moving towards a more dependable supply of power is of paramount importance in facilitating Nepal’s sustainable growth and development. Just imagine if the City of London had blackouts.
International business needs a 24 hour city with robust physical and financial infrastructure. For example, internet connectivity is the bedrock of modern industry – essential for developed and developing economies alike. In this area, as in so many others, the City of London has the expertise to support developing markets.
London’s pre-eminent offer overseas is its unique cluster of financial and professional services – our banks, insurers, engineers, lawyers, project planners and accountants. We can unlock investment, and provide excellent breadth and depth of knowledge across markets and jurisdictions. What’s more, we have extensive experience of developing infrastructure via private-public partnerships – a uniquely flexible model that the UK helped to create.
During my visit, Brexit has been a major theme. Like all our valued trading partners, people in Nepal want to know what impact Brexit will have on the City of London, and the UK as a whole. I have been reassuring Nepalese heads of government and business that the UK will remain an outwardly focused country, whose top priority is to maintain and grow our commercial and cultural relationships with friends and allies across the world.
Later this week, I will be in Pakistan with a delegation of senior British business leaders. We look forward to hearing about Pakistan’s desire to grow its professional and financial services industries, and exploring how the City can help Karachi and Islamabad accomplish their ambitions.
I hope that my visits this week will be seen as a strong sign of London and the UK’s intentions for, and undying commitment to, its cherished friends and global partners. London is a global financial centre and, as the UK reaffirms its position as a great trading nation, we should focus anew on places beyond China, India, Australia, and the United States, in order to grow British trade and investment.