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WTM 2010: Embrace globalisation, Digby Jones tells UK businesses

Globalisation is here to stay and UK small and medium sized travel firms should see it as an opportunity that emerging economies get richer quicker, Lord Digby Jones told WTM delegates today.

The former government trade envoy said: “We are a very globally engaged country. World trade was made for Britain. We engage like no other country. We are arrogant, slow – but actually stick with it.”

Jones said the UK must wake up to the potential threat from emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil, but must see it as an opportunity.

He cited the example of Jaguar cars, which is enjoying its best sales period in its history due to the fact that since the last quarter it is selling more cars in China than in the US for the first time.

Challenged over the fact that Jaguar is now owned by an Indian company, TATA, he said: “What I care about is that they do it [manufacture cars] in my country.

“They pay British people to do it; they pay corporation tax and that pays for our schools and hospitals.

“We have got to have an environment where they want to do it here. I think business absolutely gets this, and it is investing in people and kit to get there.

“A lot of commentators get nationalistic instead of thinking global.”

Lord Jones said Jaguar was a particularly significant employer in the part of the Midlands from where he hails, and that a recent decision to not close a plant there was a major boost to the area.

He said the key to the UK emerging from the recession was that small businesses, like the many that support the Jaguar plant, were able to invest and start employing people.

“We are in the game of creating wealth. There are lots of people who will tell you how to spend money; there is only one part of society that tells you how to make it.

“When we are in trouble the only way out is to trade our way out. We have to create wealth and from that wealth we create jobs and we create taxation. It’s only business that generates taxation and the employment opportunities.”

Lord Jones said too many people tar business with the same brush, believing it is only in it for itself. He believes the UK has to rebalance its economy to sort out its public finances and help business employ the people who will lose jobs in the public sector.

“You can have the political row about how it’s got to be done: how fast and how deep do you cut. But cuts never grew anything,” he said.

“As we come out of recession it’s never the big companies that do it. Actually, the real recovery comes with the small businesses employing one or two more people each. You only do that if you grow the economy.

“Small businesses need the mood music, in the context of globalisation, to just get a bit of a leg up.

:You have to understand in a globalised economy what you are up against. It’s in our interests that these emerging markets get richer as quickly as possible.

“[As a business man] I want them to be buying my value-added goods and services that sell not so much on price but basic use and value.”

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