New Ways of Looking for Business

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Readers of this blog will know that for the past few months I have been travelling extensively both on behalf of the LGA and also for UCLG the world LGA. That has given me the opportunity to take to many Council Leaders and Mayors from all over the World. They come from different countries; different cultures; different political systems. What unites the vast majority of them, however, is the growing importance of local government and regional government working together to create appropriate trade, cultural and educational links.
This is not to say that the national state or the supra-national state such as the African Union or the EU are no longer relevant or important. They are not, however as relevant or as important as they once were. The advent of better communications; of bigger territorial entities (such the creation of the Liverpool City Region); and better qualified politicians at regional and local levels means that we can now add fine-tuned approaches to the broad brush approaches to trade and industry which our national governments play. We need that to make international trade agreements that stick. We need them to look at trading blocs and the work of the World Trade Organisation. We need them to provide support to those people working at the coal face in business and industry. BUT the best mechanisms for development of trade and commerce are definitely those that we can provide from our regional and local governments.
We are extremely lucky that in the name Liverpool we get such instant brand recognition. As soon as I said or name to the Mayor of Houston or the head of the international office of the Mayor of Boston and said do you want to do business with us – the answer was yes. I will be passing those names on. The trick of doing this right is that we create ongoing relationships with the public and private sectors in appropriate city regions wherever they may be. We have to look closely at what we are good at; what services and goods we can export and then look at what we are bad at and what goods and services we need to import. We then need to to do the same with the other city region and see if there is a match. What we do not want is pointless twinning. Mayors going off shaking hands and opening things and watching concerts. There may be a secondary role for such things but what we look for in order of importance are trade links; educational links; and cultural links. Things that will pay a return for the effort that we make.
Meanwhile back in Liverpool I am looking at two other new ways of stimulating these links:
The Liverpool Commonwealth Association will be launched at two events in February and March. In February we will hosted at a dinner by Liverpool JMU and on March 7th will holding a multi-faith service and cultural event at the Liverpool Parish Church. What we hope to do here is link up diaspora communities in the Liverpool City Region with their contacts in their home countries or regions. Many of our community have friends and relatives in their country of origin who have positions of influence. What we seek to do is sue those linkages to the two-way benefit of both Countries.
We are also working with Liverpool JMU to look at their Alumni Association. At any one time we have about 10,000 foreign students living and studying in our city. Many of them really love our city but then go home and forget about us. 20 years later they move into leadership roles in the public and private sectors and then could be of great value to us. We want to keep the links up to date so that they can work with us from their new-found positions of strength to look again at these potentially valuable two-way links.
What I am trying to suggest here is that more than ever before our future can be in our hands. If we could get the Liverpool City Region sorted out and functioning instead of squabbling we will have the base; the power and the finance to go out and seek our own ways in the worlds. For far too long Liverpool has begged for crumbs from the Governments table. We started to correct this with the development fo the City Centre and the Arena, soon to be added to by the Exhibition Centre, in the first decade of this century.
Let’s put aside petty jealousies and small town posturing become a strong and vibrant city region which can and does shape its own future. Liverpool became a great city not because London let it but because our merchants and city fathers forged our place in the World. What we did in the 1800s we can do again in the 2000s.

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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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