Osborne’s entourage on trade promotion: like a bull in the China shop
Every new Government disses the previous Government’s record, but the remarks made about the UK pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in the weekend’s Financial Times go beyond understandable exuberance.
The FT reports that officials claimed that George Osborne’s visit to China was a new development (“officials claimed this approach was in stark contrast to the previous Labour government in which trade missions had gone out of fashion” – despite Lord Mandelson taking trade delegations to China and India while he was Trade Secretary), while another in Osborne’s entourage said that the UK pavilion in Shanghai was “a complete waste of money” – although as the Guardian newspaper showed on Saturday (image not available on the web), it is architecturally stunning. When he took over from Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson threatened to close down the GLA’s offices in China and India, although a subsequent review found that they were worth having (but there’s some doubt about whether the Indian ones are still functioning). Trade promotion is an easy target because its impact is difficult to prove conclusively, but overall, the Conservative approach is just indefensible incoherence.