By Mattia Ruaro and David Jones
As we move further into the 21st century, with all its promise and uncertainty, much can be said about the situation of Wales: an independent, bilingual country, rich in culture and tradition, populated by a range of vibrant businesses of all sizes. So far, so good. But does the wider world notice?
Wales is not always recognised as an independent cultural or economic entity. While England’s place in the world is strongly established, it is also true that Northern Ireland and Scotland have cultural identities which are more widely recognised than that of Wales. Why does this happen? This is an issue that should be tackled strongly and decisively, as it offers a key to helping Wales truly “go global”. A reputation and identity in the wider world makes promotion easier; it does the job for you.
How do our near neighbours tackle this issue? It may be a stereotype to think of Scotland as a country of bagpipes, fishing boats and whisky, but this image has done no harm to Scottish exports. Earlier this year economists reported a record surge in Scottish salmon exports, and in 2011 the Scotch Whisky Association recorded exports of £4 billion, showing a year on year increase of 23%. New consumers in Asia and South America are flocking to the product, and the increase in demand has brought a recent £1 billion investment in distillery production from Diageo. Two unapologetically Scottish products that are driving national identity and economic growth.
So how can this be done for Wales? Which qualities embodied in our people drive our export strategy? It’s an interesting balancing act. Take pride in the flag while simultaneously taking pride in the distinctiveness of individual products and services. Easier said than done, of course.
But it is something to work on, and our best commercial minds, as well as our political leaders, are making progress.
In April of this year Business Minister Edwina Hart announced a far reaching strategy designed to take “Brand Wales” to all corners of the globe. By targeting key countries and sectors with a series of high profile trade missions, the Welsh Assembly Government is providing focus and leadership.
Taking a long term view, education is at the heart of our economic future. English remains a global lingua franca, but the languages of emerging economies are rapidly gaining ground. Where Welsh parents might previously have told their children that English, French and German were the languages of the future, our next generation might need to pay equal attention to Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Urdu or Arabic. Investment in language learning in our schools will surely pay dividends, giving Wales the platform to take the share of the global market it deserves.
Nations have to earn global respect and smaller nations often have to work very hard for it. Wales has the talent to take its place in the world.
This is too vibrant and talented a nation to exist in anyone’s shadow.
Step forward, Wales. Step forward into the sunlight where you belong.
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