Free trade is the only way for our economies to get back on track

Free trade is the only way for our economies to get back on track

Investors around the world cheered as the results of India’s elections became known. I, along with many others, certainly hope that the decisive win of the Congress-led coalition will mean a period of stable government which will be able to focus on long-awaited reforms to the economy in areas such as pensions, banking and insurance to get the Indian economy charging forward once again.

Of course, there is a great deal of suspicion and fear among people whose jobs and livelihood have been threatened by the current crisis. Grave mistakes have been made and need to be rectified. But it is the responsibility of governments to have the courage to work together and make the case that free trade between markets is the only way for our economies to get back on track.

Certainly, in the UK, we continue to welcome foreign investment with open arms, now more than ever. 2007-08 saw India retain its position as one of the world’s fastest growing sources of investment into the UK, especially in information technology and life sciences. The UK is also considered to be the “gateway to Europe" by Indian companies. The London Stock Exchange hosts more than 50 Indian companies, and it hopes to welcome more in the future.

But life is a two-way street. Way back in 2006, in the days when Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. was still with us and before the phrase “credit crunch" entered the vernacular, Manmohan Singh gave a speech in London to business leaders and said that his government was committed to liberalization of foreign direct investment rules. Now that his government has such a strong mandate, I hope this commitment will continue and this is something I will discuss with decision makers and practitioners when I visit India in October. As India’s economy continues to grow, British companies are keen to build on the existing political and commercial links between our two countries.

To that end, I sincerely hope that Singh’s agenda will include reforms of the financial services sector and will share our commitment to a future of many interlinked financial centres across the globe, supporting the real economy by providing the necessary financial services— from capital to expertise to insurance and beyond.

The Lord Mayor of the City of London is elected for one year, and the position is unpaid and apolitical. It is an exceptionally demanding role. The Lord Mayor spends some 90 days abroad and addresses some 10,000 people face-to-face each month (making around 800 speeches a year).

The Lord Mayor listens to City businesses and helps the City corporation advise the government of the day on what is needed to help the financial services sector to function well. The Lord Mayor frequently travels to represent the City; and travels overseas with the status of a cabinet minister. On average, the Lord Mayor will meet one head of state a month and will meet a prime minister or finance minister each week to discuss financial services, often in conjunction with senior City business representatives.