Wales needs a series of new trade envoys to boost exports and raise its commercial presence after Brexit, say Welsh Conservatives.
Shadow Economy Secretary – Russell George – says the Welsh Labour Government’s “refusal to work constructively” with the UK Government risks undermining progress made on the economy.
Welsh Conservatives want to see one of the UK Government’s flagship trade schemes adopted in Wales, but fear the First Minister’s ideological aversion to adopting Conservative ideas is holding Wales back.
Mr George wants to see an initial group of eight Trade Envoys established, with responsibility to promote trade for Welsh businesses in selected high-growth and developing markets around the world.
Welsh Conservatives say the current arrangements to promote Wales abroad and boost exports are not fulfilling their potential, and that the Welsh Government needs to be “smarter” in relation to the overseas markets that it targets going forward.
Exports to the EU currently account for 67.4% of all Welsh exports – compared to just 44.6% in 2012. That figure is 55% in Northern Ireland, 43% in Scotland, and 49.2% for the UK overall.
Welsh Conservatives have already called for a new strategy from Welsh Government to boost exports to North America, but today’s announcement would mean that under a Welsh Conservative administration, a new system of trade envoys would be established in countries outside of the EU to boost Welsh trade and international profile.
The volume of Welsh exports to non-EU countries is in dramatic decline. Despite the presence of Welsh Government overseas offices, between 2013 and 2016 trade with the USA has fallen by 13%; trade with India has fallen by 22%; and trade with Japan is down an alarming 55%.
The new Trade Envoys could be based in existing UK embassies to reduce costs and support a shared approach to promoting Wales overseas – complementing work undertaken by UK Government appointed equivalents.
Their initial focus would be on boosting exports in commonwealth countries and emerging markets not already served by a Welsh Government overseas office. Appointments would be made
Shadow Economy Secretary, Russell George, said:
“We need to put trade at the very heart of our strategy for economic growth.
“Wales needs a more dynamic approach – and we must be much smarter in our bid to win the race for jobs, trade and investment in new markets after Brexit. Sadly, the Welsh Labour Government is ideologically unwilling to adopt best practice when arising from Westminster, and that narrow worldview is holding back the Welsh economy.
“Trade Envoys can play a key role in the new era, harnessing the expertise of the business community to help support Welsh businesses in growing and succeeding internationally.
“In recent years the proportion of Welsh exports to non-EU markets has declined sharply, and for the long-term health of the economy we must start looking beyond the EU.
“This would be an excellent opportunity to leverage our cultural ties with our commonwealth cousins, and to forge new partnerships with other developing markets.”