Letter: Partnership that would beat recession

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is one clear message to be drawn from the depressed state of the United Kingdom's economy, our withdrawal from the exchange rate mechanism and the growing number of redundancies and business failures. The solution to our problems is in our own hands.

Your correspondents J. Keith Miller and J. C. Hardy (letters, 12 October) are absolutely right in saying that we must export more and that consumers themselves can help by buying British at home. Without a trade deficit, there would have been no sterling crisis. But we must also remember that with the increasing globalisation of business we cannot expect to produce everything. Nor, despite Roger Lyons's comments (letter, 10 October), must we overlook what we are already achieving.

The UK has roughly 1 per cent of world population, produces 4 per cent of world output and sells about 5.6 per cent of world exports. UK exports per head of population are 40 per cent higher than in Japan and about double those of the United States. We need to win an extra 1 per cent of world trade, increasing our manufactured exports by about pounds 10bn a year, if we are to eliminate our trade deficit and build the foundations for economic recovery and sustainable long-term growth.

That is the objective of the National Manufacturing Council, a 50-strong body of leading UK industrialists set up by the Confederation of British Industry at the beginning of this year, which is to present its first major report at the CBI's National Conference on 8 November. That report will highlight the successes that many UK companies have already achieved in intensely competitive markets, and set out what needs to be done to bring the standards of others up to those of the best.

We accept that the onus is on manufacturers to invent, design, make and sell products that are better than, or at least as good as, those of our best competitors. In spite of the recession our output is 20 per cent up on a decade ago. We need a partnership between manufacturers, financiers and government to ensure that we meet world-class standards in everything we do, and we need to do more. But there is a need for an even wider partnership involving everyone in the UK. There are no magic wands, however. If we are to win in world markets it will be by our own efforts. The buck stops with all of us.

Yours faithfully,

MARK RADCLIFFE

Deputy Director-General

Confederation of British Industry

London, WC1

13 October

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