President's Message - September 2016
This month I had the
great pleasure of visiting Budapest on behalf of our Chamber as a result of an
invitation extended to us by the Budapest Chamber of Commerce who had been
introduced to us through our member Marcus Patterson at this year's St George's Day lunch.
I was joined in Budapest by our Vice President June Cory and Executive
Director Lisa Bates-Wallis and together we attended the 25th anniversary gala dinner
of the British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary and participated in a SME
Business Forum focusing on how to increase business between Hungary and the UK.
When the invitation arrived from the Budapest Chamber of Commerce, I felt it
was important to accept it given the potential links which we may
be able to establish for our members in this growing economy.
I also felt that
this was a real recognition of our efforts as a business community to appeal to
those who may previously have only looked towards London
for assistance and advice rather than reaching out to a business community such
as ours with access to skills, markets and expertise on a par with a city such
We received an enthusiastic and warm welcome
from everyone we met during our trip and it was clear from our short stay that
opportunities certainly exist for our members to open new markets and explore
supplier/buyer relationships via the contacts we
were able to establish.
Indeed, it was remarkable to find myself presenting on
the same platform as the British Ambassador to Hungary Iain Lindsay who coincidentally has previously lived in our
district for many years and the Hungarian Foreign minister who had just
returned from a session of the United Nations in New York.
Notwithstanding the issue of Brexit which both addressed directly during their speeches, each
were keen to promote the need for increased trade between Hungary and the UK and
the British Ambassador went on to express his desire to see a redress in the
current imbalance in this relationship which continues to show a
significant trade deficit between Hungary and the UK with the UK exporting
significantly less to Hungary than Hungary does to the UK.
For my part, it was a very proud moment to be
given the opportunity to tell the audience of around 100 Hungarian SME's about
the incredibly vibrant and skilled business community we have here in the St
Albans City and District and express our desire to work with them to
widen our network and further our reputation as an open and welcoming place to
On the basis of our visit and the connections
made, the Budapest Chamber of commerce plan to bring a delegation of business
leaders to St Albans in the next few months and we plan to arrange an event to
welcome them formally to our business community and also to
explore ways in which they can work with our members in the future.
You may be aware that the United Kingdom only
enjoys a trade surplus with one country in the European Union which is Ireland.
It is incredible to think that this means we import more than we export across
the other 27 countries making up the European Union.
Given the relative
slow growth forecast in the UK over the forthcoming years and taking in to
account the innovation, skills and expertise of our members, it seems logical
to reach out to these economies to develop growth opportunities and
our Budapest experience would suggest that when we do this we are knocking on
an open door. It is worth bearing in mind that the reason why we were invited
to Budapest was that
whilst we showed a real interest in developing a
meaningful relationship, they had only met with a lukewarm response from the
various bodies they approached in London.
The visit was a real eye-opener for
us all and I do hope that we will be able to open up similar
relationships going forward with other international markets in a similar way
in the future. Indeed, if you do have any connections you think we ought to be
cultivating then please do get in contact as it was only through the proactive
actions of one of our members that this particular door opened.
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