It doesn't take an economics expert to know that economic growth in the UK has stalled. While London businesses do seem to have confidence in the economic future of the capital the key indicators in terms of domestic orders and sales all remain sluggish.
Despite weak demand in this country companies still seem to be reluctant to look at sending their goods and services abroad with over half of London companies admitting they don't export.
There is one country which presents tremendous opportunities for British business and that is China. The statistics about China's growth are enormous and well quoted but one that is worth mentioning again is that in all likelihood the country will become the world's second biggest consumer market before the end of the decade.
Businesses who can access this market, which is also desperate for the types of business services that have thrived in London, will be well placed but the task of approaching these new markets can often be intimidating and the fear of things to going wrong outweighs the opportunities for many.
Trade missions have been one way of opening up markets for many years and while traditionally, missions were funded by the public sector we have worked with our member companies in order to set up a privately funded mission to China, led by our President Willie Walsh. Our members will bring their financial clout and expertise to support small and medium sized businesses overcome the challenges they face in exporting.
Companies on the mission represent a range of sectors and are a range of sizes with differing experiences of exporting but all are keen to expand the business they do in China.
While there is undoubtedly an important role for the government in supporting UK businesses overseas our mission serves to demonstrate that the private sector can deliver what small businesses need. It is clear that for the UK economy to grow it needs to be led by private-sector growth, with the government providing the conditions that enable businesses to reach their export potential.
There is another angle to the mission with leaders, including members of our Chinese Business Association, using the opportunity to position the London and the UK as a place for Chinese investment following on from the Chinese investment in Thames Water and acquisition of Weetabix. China has huge amounts of capital that could be invested in the UK including into the massive infrastructure projects which are needed in order to support UK economic growth going forward.
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