Chinese Liberal Democrats Vice Chair Merlene Toh Emerson invited Vicky Wong, a freelance journalist, to attend the Chinese Liberal Democrats recent business networking event, attended by Vince Cable. Here’s Vicky’s account of the evening…
Dr Vince Cable MP, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills was keynote speaker at an “East-West Business networking event” organised by Merlene Emerson of the Chinese Liberal Democrats at the Roux at Parliament Square last week.
Dr Cable praised the work of Chinese Liberal Democrats and their role in promoting closer relations between the party and the Chinese and South East Asian community in the UK:
“I think there are several reasons why it is valuable for me to have a chance to talk to you; the first is as a Liberal Democrat it’s good to meet fellow supporters in our different communities.
“Secondly, as Business Secretary, I have an interest in supporting entrepreneurial activity in our diaspora communities. Not just the Chinese but the Chinese community [in the UK] are a very important source of business energy and I want to encourage that.
“For a whole lot of reasons I value the opportunity to talk to you.”
Dr Cable also talked about what the Coalition Government is doing to promote better business relations between China and the UK and about the government’s track record on the economy. He added that the UK’s economic and political position is now stable.
“We’re beginning to see recovery in several key areas; employment is much better, we have well over one million private sector jobs created in the last two and a half years, the unemployment rate is uncomfortably high but it’s comparable to the US, and much better than in continental Europe.
“We have large numbers of start-up companies happening in the UK, I think more than we’ve ever had in history the number of entrepreneurs who have started businesses in the last year, and there is a recovery of confidence in exporting.”
He also acknowledged that the UK’s visa regime can be difficult for people wanting to work or study in the UK and reassured the audience that:
“There are some obstacles, some of you I’m sure are going to raise the visa regime. It isn’t easy for people to visit from many parts of the world. I’ll be quite frank with you there is quite a big debate going on in government about this; many of us want the system to be open and free and say we want people here – whether they are students, visitors or business people – they’re good for the country.”
Dr Cable then talked about the government’s new industrial strategy to invest more in manufacturing, and also about education as an industry to plug the skills gap.
“We are developing for the first time in decades what I call an industrial strategy, because it isn’t just a question of recovering from recession, we have to try and put the economy in a different structure with more emphasis on exports, on business investment, long-term planning around manufacturing in industries like the aerospace industry and the car industry are doing very well, they think in 10-20 year horizons we haven’t in the past been good at that in the UK we now have to get that kind of long-term thinking.
“I think there’s a vast resource of talent in this country, many of which are represented in your community.”
There then followed a Q&A with Dr Cable chaired by Chinese Liberal Democrats Chair, Phil Ling, with corporate and business guests from the UK, China, Taiwan, Hongkong and Singapore as well as representatives from the China-Britain Business Council and Great Britain-China Centre. This was followed by informal networking and, as you can see, photo-taking!