Over the weekend I was in Lucknow, India to secure investment openings for British businesses. As the keynote speaker at the Global Investment Summit, I had the unique opportunity to highlight Cheltenham’s cyber and defence industries on the world stage.
I was there to lead a delegation of over 30 British businesses, including firms that are already partnering with Indian counterparts such as BAe Systems, Thales UK and Rolls-Royce. I was delighted that at the summit, they signed deals worth over £160m.
It is essential that British businesses take advantage of the opportunities in India. This country of over 1.4 billion people is growing at an extraordinary rate, and there is enormous demand for British products, from Scotch whiskey to the latest jet engine technology.
Cyber security and defence are booming in India. And with thousands of people in Gloucestershire employed by companies like BAe, GE Aviation, Ultra Electronics, Safran, Raytheon and CDS Defence & Security, we are well placed in our county to reap the benefits.
But it became clear to me that we are in an intense competition with countries like the US and France who are only too ready to muscle in on areas where we currently have a competitive advantage. It is vital that we work hard to secure the market share that British products deserve.
This all matters because growing our exports is one of the most effective ways of boosting prosperity here at home, and raising the tax revenues that fund our public services like Cheltenham General Hospital and Cheltenham’s schools. It’s with a strong economy that you can build a great society.
I flew back from India via Paris, where I led talks between a British MOD delegation and my French counterparts. We discussed plans to work together to boost ammunition supplies, as well as future projects such as directed energy weapons to counter drones and other threats.
Although both countries, quite properly, stood up for their interests I was pleased that overall the talks were very warm and constructive. It feels like we are moving into a new era of Anglo-French cooperation.
[Column first published in the Glos Echo]