Britain ‘facing wrong way’ in international trade, says Jo Johnson MP

Jo Johnson

The Securing Asia 2012 Summit finished yesterday with a closing keynote by Jo Johnson, Conservative MP for Orpington and brother of London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Johnson is a former journalist who wrote extensively about the rise of India as a political and economic power.

In his speech, which was broadcast live on the Internet by, Johnson said his interest in India went back to his days as Financial Times bureau chief in south Asia, an interest he continued when he became of Member of Parliament in May 2010.

A key objective of the Government is to reduce Britain’s trade deficit. Johnson believes that the UK is “facing the wrong way” with regard to its exports strategy which focusses on established markets like Europe, North America and Japan.

UK firms have been slow to turn toward Asian markets even though the GDP of the region will account for 60pc of world GDP by 2020.

Exports to BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) – deemed to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development – was only 6.5pc of UK goods exports. Meanwhile, Germany exports nearly twice as much to BRIC countries and Japan exports 22pc.

He said the UK is out of kilter with where the world economy is developing but the Government is working to resolve the problem, he said, by forming relationships with powerful countries in Asia.

Foreign Secretary William Hague says that the UK is facing East like never before and it’s bringing dividends: UK exports to the region are up 20pc year on year and the Government has set a target of doubling exports to the region in five years.

This is being backed up by unprecedented diplomatic muscle and a significant increase in UK Trade & Investment resources. There will be eight new diplomatic stations in Asia by end of this Parliament, with 60 new consular staff in China and 30 in India to help break down non-tariff barriers and help firms rise to challenge of exporting.

“More ministers have visited India since May 2010 than any other country in the world with the exception of Belgium. That single fact highlights commitment to India,” he said. After the May 2010 election, planning for the first visit to Asia by the PM started the next day and they were in Delhi within 10 weeks of election.

That sense of urgency was justified, he said. The UK slipped down the ranks of India’s trading partners. In 10 years, Britain fell from 4th to 22nd most important source of imports for India.

Following Johnson’s speech, event founder Harry Dhaul thanked all of the speakers, organisers, sponsors and delegates and announced that the event will return to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre 18-19 June 2013.

The organisers are also running a series of events in Asia for businesses that are interested in exploring this market.

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