Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report


Memorandum submitted by the East European Trade Council

  Thank you for inviting the EETC to submit written evidence to the inquiry.

  The East European Trade Council is an outhoused British-Government financed Area Advisory Group responsible for promoting British business of every kind with 27 sovereign states, including those covered by the inquiry.

  We have visited the majority of those countries and are to visit Georgia and Armenia from 11-17 April 1999; we have regular contact with our Posts in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia and our Agriculture and Food Working Group has visited the region to seek business for its members. I attach a letter from one of the members of our advisory council, which consists of 15 businessmen together with a representative from the DTI and two from trade associations, the CBI and the British Consultants Bureau [not printed].

  Now that commercial/business relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are being conducted on an increasingly normal basis there is growing interest from our clients, large and small British companies, in the Caspian Region and Central Asia. This is partly driven by markets that offer early investment proposals and business proposals linked to increased prosperity for a growing section of the population.

  The Posts in each country are crucial to developing British business in that they can provide timely information on changes in the market, privatisation, developing private sector businesses, need for service industries and the like. When such Posts are properly resourced they are the key to British companies winning a larger slice of the business before our competitors.

  If adequate staffing is provided the benefits are two-fold: commercial officers can become more proactive in identifying commercial opportunities and are able to give the back-up to British companies who need more support in those markets than elsewhere.

  High calibre locally engaged staff are worth retaining and Heads of Mission should be given flexibility in their staffing budget to pay the market rate to attract and retain locally engaged commercial officers.

  With the establishment of British Trade International and the recognition of the higher priority for British exports, consideration should be given to increasing the resources of British Posts in the markets of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia.

March 1999

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