Hawking for international investment is always a bit like a beauty parade. News over the weekend suggests that Britannia has successfully hitched up her skirt and got some rich Korean men to like her, as the coalition announced a new trade arrangement with South Korea.
Decades ago governments in the Far East created special economic zones to attract western capital, with the offer of ultra-low tax rates and lower labour costs. However, the roles have since reversed. Now it's the turn of the West to do the begging, as, one by one, the politicos make their way over to Asia seeking investment.
The latest round of this has come with Nick Clegg announcing that South Korea, the third largest economy in Asia, is willing to invest around another £500m in the UK economy through infrastructure and manufacturing opportunities, courtesy of a new trade agreement.
This comes after the acquisition of 8.6% of Thames Water by the China Investment Corporation (the Chinese government's sovereign fund) and the coalition will be looking to build on this to create a trend of direct investment in the UK.
This coalition has been on the receiving end of two contrasting pieces of news regarding money since last week's Budget. The good news from South Korea will in no way bury the fall-out from the 'Cameron Dinner-gate', but will hopefully have a more lasting impact.
It has become obvious that neither the UK consumer nor an unaided manufacturing sector will be able to drag the UK economy out of the malaise it finds itself in at the moment. On the other hand, the creation of jobs by foreign companies and countries will be a key driving force on the road to recovery. Measures within the Budget, like the cut in corporation tax and the end of the 50p tax rate, are a clear signal to the foreign corporate fraternity (and their high earners) that the UK wants them to set up business here.
Britain is in a unique position to access foreign investment at the moment, and missing out on this opportunity would have been a far more damaging decision than the so-called 'Granny Tax' will be in the long run. Regulation and red-tape is, thankfully, a lot less abundant in the UK than in either the US or many EU countries. Whilst the widespread use of the English language cannot be underestimated when it comes to securing new international trade.
Those against these international deals often express concern about "giving away the family silver". To them I would ask, what would you suggest we do instead? Keep a decayed infrastructural base and repair it ourselves, hampering investment in the industries in which we remain ahead of most of the world. Or rather go overseas and allow someone else to help us, strengthen political and economic ties, and create business in areas of the UK where the financial sector doesn't hold sway.
For me there's no argument. Time to learn Korean I think.
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