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Central Europe: UK Unveils Business Drive East

By Breffni O'Rourke/Caroline Tang

London, 17 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The British government has launched a trade promotion campaign aimed at doubling the country's sales to five Central European countries by the end of this year.

The campaign, which lasts 18 months, will focus on the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Five industrial sectors are targetted, namely agribusiness, automotive, consumer goods/retailing, electronics/communications, and health care.

British Trade Minister Anthony Nelson is now visiting Poland and Hungary to promote the campaign. Before leaving London he said that British exports to the region grew in 1995 by 36 per cent, and in 1996 were expected to be worth $ 2.5 billion.

Nelson said that British business is well-placed to help further private sector growth in the emerging economies. He said British business people have much practical expertise, and that the trade campaign aims at promoting awareness of opportunities on both sides.

He said that within the region, business people can come to see that "British companies large and small can deliver vision and competence to rival the world's best".

And at home, too many British business people still believed the central European economies were slow. He said the truth is quite the opposite, and it's up to his countrymen to visit and see the opportunities for themselves.

To concretely build this mutual awareness, the British Department of Trade and Industry is planning a series of events.

These consist of over 30 roadshows and seminars for local businessmen around the United Kingdom, and trade missions each month to and from Central Europe.

The department will also give financial support to 15 trade fairs in the region, and offer advice and information via its export branches, and embassies and through a dedicated phone line.

In addition the British government has made available to the campaign $ 1.2 million from its "Know How Fund" for two schemes to support British exporters to the region through the preparation of feasibility studies, and through personnel training.