The U.K. Ambassador on the British Paths to Sustainable Prosperity

Yesterday I attended a luncheon presentation by His Excellency Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British Ambassador to the United States.  In a question and answer format facilitated by Dennis Lockhart, President & CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Ambassador Sheinwald provided the U.K. perspective on his country’s “Paths to Prosperity”.  In this world of inescapable mutuality, it appears that many of the priorities of the U.K. are quite similar to those of the U.S.  Expressing that “this is not the world of Churchill and Roosevelt”, Sir Nigel cited security, energy, climate, world finance and education as imperatives where Americans and the British are “natural partners”.  

The coalition government in place in the U.K. has set forth a very detailed five-year plan with significant compromises from each party, and a commitment for collaboration and transparency.   To address the need for deficit reduction in the midst of the economic crisis in the Euro zone and globally, the UK will make cuts of 25% on average across the public sector, while protecting some areas such as health care and international development.  Expected to result in the loss of 600,000 public jobs, the hope is that other financial policy changes such as tax restructuring will promote private sector growth.  Sir Nigel stated that the pro-business government provides a sustainable environment for business growth, investment and trade.  The educated workforce, good legal standards and the cultural and social amenities offered by the U.K. were viewed as incentives for multi-nationals to invest there. 

Earlier in the day the Atlanta Journal Constitution published an op-ed by the Ambassador promoting free-trade across the pond in part by citing statistics such as the 1 million people that are employed by either U.K. companies in the U.S. or U.S. companies in the U.K., and that the U.K. has created over 24,000 jobs in Georgia during the past 18 months.  The U.K. is also the highest European export destination for Georgia, with $1.2 billion in exports reaching the U.K. in 2009.

Perhaps it’s my heightened sense of awareness about the topic, but I found that sustainability of economies, the environment and societies were regularly integrated into the conversations that occurred during the presentation as well as the pre-luncheon reception.  In responding to a question about global development, foreign assistance and poverty, Sir Nigel cited the importance of progressive efforts needed for international development, climate change, child health, malaria prevention and referenced the Millennium Goals Development Summit to be held next week in New York.    

It seems that discussions about the inextricable links between sustainability and economic development are becoming more prevalent as business leaders begin to understand the opportunities and the need for immediate and long term action.  We have a long way to go, however.  Let’s do what we can to ensure the politicians also understand their roles in pressing for change.  As we go to the polls in the U.S. this November, let’s remind our political leaders on this side of the pond that the issue of sustainability is not defined by political party - a blue or red.    

Sources:  The luncheon, held at the Commerce Club, was co-hosted by the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and the British American Atlanta Business Group and supported by the Georgia State University J. Mack Robinson College of Business.  A video recording of the presentation will be posted in the near future at http://robinson.gsu.edu/wacatl/index.html

Nigel Sheinwald, , “In bad economy, protectionism provides no protection at all” Atlanta Journal Constitution, Monday, September 13, 2010.  http://www.ajc.com/opinion/in-bad-economy-protectionism-612839.html

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