Memorandum submitted by The Welsh Development
This submission to the Welsh Affairs Committee
inquiry into "Wales in the World" by the Welsh Development
Agency (WDA) makes the following points:
The WDA promotes and converts inward
investment projects into Wales while offering widespread support
for the start up and growth of indigenous firms.
The WDA works in conjunction with
a variety of government organisations based in Whitehall or in
the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.
Invest.UK (I.UK) is vital to the
UK inward investment effort and is a body with whom the WDA seeks
a close working relationship.
Some key staff in both I.UK and diplomatic
posts overseas would benefit from greater understanding and knowledge
The inward investment effort is based
primarily in London and may miss the opportunity to promote the
strengths and uniqueness of locations in Wales.
Special events to promote Wales organised
by the overseas posts of the FCO provide excellent opportunities
to showcase the special characteristics of the Principality.
Devolution has raised the profile
of the special national identity of Wales, providing a new opportunity
to promote the country to potential investors but extra resources
from I.UK and FCO would be helpful in this process.
The Welsh Development Agency (WDA) has supported
business in Wales for 24 years. During that time, it has promoted
and converted inward investment projects into Wales while offering
widespread support for the start up and growth of indigenous firms.
The WDA was previously answerable to the Secretary
of State for Wales but the creation of the National Assembly for
Wales in 1999, to which the WDA is now accountable, provides a
new democratic framework. In 1998, the former WDA was enlarged,
to take in the functions of the Development Board for Rural Wales
and the Land Authority for Wales. The WDA believes there is a
major role for the general promotion of Wales within its remit
and that Welsh industry benefits from activity which raises the
profile of Wales.
The WDA has an International Division of approximately
65 staff, of which 25 are based overseas. It has permanent representation
in overseas markets, including the USA, Canada, France, Belgium/Netherlands,
Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore
and Australia. In most markets it has local nationals as permanent
staff, so that it can relate closely to local and national political,
economic and cultural trends. The WDA also has representation
through consultants in other major markets such as Germany, Sweden
With most of its representative offices located
in the same region as FCO Embassies and Consulates, the WDA has
developed operating and personal relationships with the overseas
representatives of the UK Government. It also has strong relationships
with foreign governments (both at national and local administrative
levels as appropriate), Chambers of Commerce, trade associations,
universities and cultural groups (especially those with a Welsh
connection) and organisations representing all aspects of UK activity
(such as the British Tourist Authority and the British Council)
as well as with its customers and prospective investors.
In the course of its activities, the WDA also
works in conjunction with Government organisations based in Whitehall
or in the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff. Examples include
overseas trade promotion (jointly with Wales Trade International),
tourism (with the British Tourist Authority and Wales Tourist
Board), the film industry (with Sgrin, formerly Screen Wales),
centres of scientific expertise and learning (with the British
Council, Welsh universities and further education colleges) and
music and opera (with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Welsh
National Opera etc). The WDA also undertakes general relationship-building
activity on behalf of the National Assembly, working closely with
the Regional Links and International Relations Units.
Wales has been notably successful historically
in attracting inward investment as part of the Government's strategy
to increase and broaden industrial and business sectors and as
an integral part of the National Economic Development Strategy.
Wales is developing as a dynamic and vibrant
regional economy in Europe, based on the skills of its workforce,
its industrial infrastructure and excellent communications (including
high-level broadband connectivity), access to European markets
and government support to business. As far as international companies
are concerned this last is co-ordinated by the Welsh Development
Agency which provides a full line of service and is the lead body
for inward investment.
The recent granting of Objective 1 status to
a large part of Wales represents an additional major strategic
opportunity for economic regeneration, both from the perspective
of the economy of Wales and of the UK as a whole. The European
Regional Funded programmes which result will be focused on economic
and social regeneration programmes, especially those which reflect
the priorities of the knowledge economy and emphasise the themes
of social inclusion, sustainable development and equal opportunities.
The attraction of internationally mobile inward
investment plays an important part in these programmes.
I.UK is the Executive Agency with which the
WDA most frequently works. Based jointly in the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, I.UK is part
of the newly formed Trade Partners UK and is responsible for marketing
the UK for inward investment. It has a successful track record
and is a body which commands the general support of the WDA. However,
there is some evidence that investment opportunities in Wales
are not properly understood by key Foreign Office or DTI staff
responsible for the referral of projects.
Wales has been poorly supported through inward
investment enquiries and visits from I.UK, particularly from the
USA. In addition, there have been a number of high profile investment
missions from Japan and Korea in the past two years which have
not included Wales in their itinerary, in spite of the strong
representation by companies from those countries in Wales and
strong cases put forward for inclusion in visit itineraries into
Wales for these missions.
The WDA would like to see greater efforts by
I.UK to hold inward investment missions and events in locations
such as Cardiff, in order to promote major cities and regions
outside of London. Furthermore, in order to remove the perceived
London bias of I.UK, we propose that the I.UK bureau should be
moved outside the UK capital. In addition, we perceive that overseas
embassies sometimes over-promote the advantages of locating in
London rather than representing the strength of regions such as
Wales. It would be helpful if there were specific promotions on
aspects of Wales such as the vibrant regeneration of Cardiff.
We would suggest that a closer relationship
in marketing strategy between I.UK and the WDA would give a better
focus on the opportunities in Wales, especially those created
by Objective I status.
The WDA makes strong efforts to ensure that
the overseas posts are aware of all opportunities in Wales. Regular
briefings take place. Ambassadors and Consuls General often visit
Wales on duty tours, on appointment or during their posting; such
visits are very welcome although they tend to be brief and consequently
there may be some room for improvement in the level of understanding
and knowledge of Wales.
The overseas posts of the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office also hold occasional promotional events, to which representatives
from the WDA's overseas offices are invited. Such events sometimes
include the involvement of British Government Ministers. However,
these are mostly general promotions for the UK, for example the
annual Queen's Birthday Party celebrations, and usually do not
include specific provision for promotion of Wales but there have
been some notable exceptions such as Paris in June 1999.
In addition, the overseas posts of the FCO arrange
special events to promote Wales in association with high profile
visits by National Assembly leaders and WDA senior executives.
Wales is usually showcased as an integral part of the UK, with
special characteristics, which make it highly suitable and desirable
as a location for international trade and investment activity.
These visits give a valuable opportunity of raising the profile
Senior Foreign Office personnel, including Ambassadors
and High Commissioners, frequently participate in such promotions.
One recent successful example was a visit by the First Secretary,
Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan MP, to Japan, during which both trade and
investment opportunities were promoted through visits and seminars.
OTHER UK GOVERNMENT
In the course of its promotional activities,
the WDA regularly contacts other bodies sponsored by the British
Government, most notably the British Council and British Tourist
Authority, in most cases to develop joint promotional activities.
In both these cases, although there appears
to be a willingness to work with us on joint promotions, limited
resources and some unfamiliarity with the opportunities presented
by the new Wales mean that it is difficult to obtain a good share
of voice, unless the activity is promoted and sponsored by the
counterpart body in Wales (ie the British Council in Wales, or
the Wales Tourist Board).
The impact of devolution has been to raise the
profile of the national identity of Wales. Diplomatic posts have
made increased efforts to contact the WDA and emphasise their
desire to provide specific opportunities to promote Wales (particularly
in the USA and Japan). These much-welcomed approaches are being
followed up and put into action.
The WDA, for its part, makes determined efforts
to explain to both staff in the UK and in overseas posts the significance
of devolution and the opportunities it presents. The WDA believes
that more effort is required by I.UK and the FCO staff to become
briefed on this subject.
In summary, the main issue is the long standing
lack of familiarity with what Wales has to offer. This coupled
with the limited resources which Wales has to promote itself overseas
means that it is difficult for Wales to obtain the profile it
needs if it is to take advantage of the opportunities which devolution
offers. There needs to be more effort taken by all UK Government
departments and bodies which have overseas activities and influence
to understand the unique strengths of Wales B its vibrancy, the
extent of the transformation which has taken place, its culture
and its language, the youthful "can do" spirit which
has developed in recent years B and the challenges it faces B
and to promote these internationally. This means an enhanced policy
of co-operation with and support to organisations like the WDA,
which already represent Wales overseas and have significant roles
to play in its promotion.
The WDA believes that Wales has an excellent
story to tell in terms of turning investment opportunities into
successful business ventures. Such ventures have provided quality
jobs for the people of Wales and have contributed much to social
and economic regeneration. We recognise, however, that there is
still much more to do and commend the work of the Welsh Affairs
Committee in moving this debate forward by undertaking this inquiry.
The WDA has high regard for I.UK and for the
efforts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department
of Trade and Industry to promote Wales in the world. Much valuable
activity takes place that we commend to the Committee. Events
that work best are those which promote the special characteristics
and uniqueness of Wales. A number of strategies are possible in
order to address this, including the development of special marketing
programmes to feature the opportunities presented by the new Wales.
W B Elliot
13 October 2000