In a report released today, the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee says that investment opportunities have been missed by the lack of a dedicated trade promotion agency
The Committee reports that the abolition of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) has reduced Wales's visibility in the global market place. Nearly five years on, the WDA remains one of the most recognisable of all Welsh brands. The Welsh Government must urgently consider how it can be used to promote more clearly Wales's global identity. The Committee argues for the establishment of a dedicated trade promotion agency, either sitting within the Welsh Government or as a private sector vehicle. Such a body should have a mix of skills with an emphasis on private sector experience.
The Committee argues that Wales does not have sufficient resources to work alone in attracting inward investment nor the advantages that UK Trade & Investment, the UK Government department with lead responsibility for trade and investment, has in terms of resources and networks. Wales must engage with politicians and officials in the UK Government to maximise opportunities to attract inward investment to Wales and so improve the long-terms prospects of the Welsh economy.
Comment from the Chair
Chair of the Committee David T.C. Davies MP, said:
"Wales is now one of the worst performing areas in the UK in terms of attracting inward investment. Traditional approaches, such as grants and low labour costs, can no longer be relied upon to attract inward investors. The Welsh Government must think innovatively about how to attract investment and develop a clear economic strategy.
Without a dedicated trade promotion agency, Wales's international recognition has suffered. The WDA remains one of the most recognisable of all Welsh brands and it must be used to promote Wales’s global identity. The Welsh Government must realise that it cannot work in isolation, and must work effectively with the UK Government, using the advantages it has in terms of networks and resources, to improve the long-term prospects of the Welsh economy.
Welsh Assembly Ministers should always be willing to speak to counterparts in Westminster and the refusal by the Economic Development Minister to discuss economic development issues with the Committee was very disappointing.
In the longer term the Welsh economy has a number of strengths, amongst them a committed and loyal workforce and a number of internally recognised and successful companies in areas such as aerospace, life sciences, the steel industry and the automotive industry. Wales also provides an attractive quality of life to prospective investors, with its coast and countryside and a rich cultural history. The Welsh Government must develop a clear narrative about the benefits of Wales that can be promoted to overseas markets."