President's Message - September 2016

Posted: 4th October 2016, 11:44am

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 as London. 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 new 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 do business. 

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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