Councillors and the Foreign Office

This morning I nipped out of the UCLG Congress and went for a meeting with Judith McGregor the UK Amabssador to Mexico. It turned out to be a very instructive meeting indeed.

We were able to talk to her about the changing architecture of the public sector in the UK and about how councils and their LEPs  could work more with Ambassadors and their staff to work up ways in which trade and other opportuniteis could be taken forward. In essence we agreed four things that we could try and do together which might act as a pilot for the way in which the LGA could act as an intermediary between the world and business and trade opportunities in our council`s areas.

The first thing that we will try is to run a week long visit for people from Mexican local government to the UK. In this we will arrange tours that will introduce the Mexican team to the way we do things in the UK and the business potential that exists for us to assist with their problems. The more people know about what the UK has to offer the more likely it is that they will then use UK goods and services. There are clear potential areas of activity in waste management and environmental services and in new approaches to local neighbourhood policing where expertise is badly needed. This will also give us the chance to sell services directly to Mexican Councils from UK local government.

The next thing we could try is to ask a local council to arrange a dinner/workshop in their area at which the potential for increasing sales to Mexico could be looked at. They will produce a booklet which could be used and arrange a speaker etc for the event if we work jointly with the local Chamber of Commerce to get the group together. UK universities would be included as well as the private sector as more opportunities exist in this field.

These ideas and the others would then be evaluated to see if they worked, how well they worked and whether or not they would serve as a model which could be used by our Embassies in other Countries.

What has become clear to me is that the UK is not fully taking advantage of our proud reputation in Mexico as with other Countries. On Monday night I went with Erica, Cllr Wilcox and James Beadle to a restaurant for dinner. They were interested in the fact that we spoke English, that we were visitors and became even more intersted in us when they found out that we were from the UK. The owners of the place came and joined us – they then shut early and we enjoyed a Mexican lock in. The Tequila flowed and they told us how much they respected the UK – how they think we are a cultured and honourable country – how they try to speak English with an English (sorry Celts) not an American accent. There is a  radio station here that plays Beatles music for an hour a day. The second biggest department store chain is called Liverpool which dates back to the days when most foreign imports to the Country came via our docks!

In all there are massive opportunities here for joint public/private activity between here and the UK. When I get back I will help work up proposals to take advantage of the potential for the UK and Merseyside in particular.

But today has shown me that in the field of exporting and commerce and industry generally councils have so much to offer the Government. Vince Cable/William Hague beware. I will be knocking on your door when I get back!

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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