After refusing to be a “partner country” at the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat summit, the United Kingdom (UK) on Friday said it decided to withdraw from the “show-piece, state-led event” due to lack of satisfactory “commercial outcomes”. The UK is the second country after United States to pull out as a partner country for the summit that is scheduled to be held from January 18 to 20, 2019.
Senior diplomats from the United Kingdom pointed out that after spending 50,000 pounds each in bringing ministerial and business delegations to the summit, the quantum of business deals struck at the event were few. “We partnered in 2015 and 2017 and the money and resources we put into did not fetch the commercial outcomes the way we wanted. We have now decided to use that money in better ways… With 25,000 pounds a year, we can do a lot more than going out and talking to people, having dinners and running events. Out of that, we ended up with just two or three concrete business deals,” said a senior diplomat from the UK, not willing to be identified.
“Because we are not a partner country, we will not be bringing any ministerial delegation or business delegation. We have also not taken up space in the Vibrant Gujarat exhibition,” the official said, adding that the UK was able to crack only two business deals during the 2015 summit and one deal in 2017 edition of the event. The decision to not be a “partner country” in the 2019 edition of Vibrant summit — that will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — was taken by the UK in August 2018 and Chief Secretary of Gujarat J N Singh was informed through a letter in September, said sources.
When asked if the reasons behind the UK’s decision is similar to the one taken by the United States, the diplomat said, “Our decision is not based on any politics… Our resources are limited and we are looking at where we can target it to achieve real deliverable outcomes… We have learnt from our experiences in 2015 and 2017.”
Diplomatic ties between the UK and Gujarat that were strained post-2002 communal riots in the state began improving after 100 MPs in the UK’s House of Commons passed a motion to support Vibrant Gujarat summit, a brain child of Narendra Modi, who was the then chief minister of the state.
The US Consul General Edgard D Kegan during his visit to Vadodara earlier in December 2018 said the United States will not be able to partner for the summit till the unresolved trade issues between the two countries are settled.
When asked if there were any similar strains in trade-ties between the UK and Gujarat, the diplomat said, “The trade and investment relations is really strong (between Britain and Gujarat). We are doing really well… We are doing some fantastic business in Gujarat, but not through Vibrant Gujarat which is a show-piece, state-led event. So if we are going to spend 50,000 pounds to attend Vibrant Gujarat once every two years, we can spend that money much better in B2B meetings.”
The official said that last year, the UK had targetted to export 16 million pounds of products to Gujarat and achieved 300 million. “This year we are going to do 500 million. So that relation is already strong and if we devote our resources to that B2B relationship and business building we will get more results rather than if we do Vibrant Gujarat. So that is where we have to make a judgement call. So the relationship is great and it is getting better. Following Brexit, we will be bringing more British investments into India.”
UK is the fourth FDI contributor after Mauritius, Singapore and Japan. So far, 13 countries have confirmed to being the “partner countries” for the Vibrant summit. This includes Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Japan, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, The Netherlands, UAE and Uzbekistan.
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