Britain needs to wean itself off its trade dependence on Europe and exploit emerging markets to the full according to the president of the Confederation of British Industry.
Sir Roger Carr said the fact 60 per cent of the UK’s trade is with Europe means growth and recovery can be better achieved by focusing elsewhere.
Sir Roger, who was in Birmingham to speak at CBI West Midlands annual dinner said the ongoing eurozone crisis would continue to hamper growth and recovery in the UK.
“We have a very large shadow over the UK economy which clearly comes from Europe,” he said. “One of the worst things in the world is to have a problem you can’t fix. All we can do is encourage those that have the power to fix it as a matter of urgency.
“The most important thing we can do is to put our own efforts into making us less dependent on the eurozone by building our sales activity much more with new growth markets.
“It’s a long term agenda but the only real solution to avoid being dependent on anybody.”
Sir Roger also called for an industrial policy that provided business with the right climate for companies to fulfil their potential and also believes profits need to be recycled and reinvested. He added: “A whole raft of sectors and businesses within those sectors are prospering and balance sheets of many in the UK are strong. What we need is to liberate cash from those balance sheets to see it recycled in investment and to do that we need a greater sense of confidence.”
Paying tribute to the region Sir Roger also said it was doing better than some parts of the country.
“In the West Midlands there are still some first class examples of good businesses that have prospered in the bad times,” he said. “Obviously names like JLR, JCB and GKN all spring to mind.
“The common denominator is they have kept addressing their costs, have continued to invest in innovation and new products and most importantly have put considerable investment into selling those products into growth parts of the global economy.
“But it shows that if you have got the right plan and you execute it properly you can still do well when things are quite challenging.
“By doing well they create great employment prospects, offer opportunity for the long term by having full order books and promote the reputation of British business by doing well all over the world.
“If you invest in your company, develop new product, ensure it is something the customer wants and you take it to markets where the customer has money to spend a commercial alchemy tends to work.
“The more companies we can see doing that the more growth there will be in the economy, albeit in challenging times.”
The revival of the Midland automotive industry was hailed as “remarkable” by the chairman of Centrica and former chairman of Cadbury.
He said: “The renaissance of the British motor industry in the West Midlands is one of the most remarkable stories of my business life. To see what was the collapse of the industry in the seventies and eighties and to see the rebirth and regrowth at the turn of the century is a remarkable achievement.