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By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd

19 Feb 13. India, Turkey, Oman, Saudi Arabia and many more besides have all been on the list of trade related international visits undertaken by UK Prime Minister David Cameron over the past two and a half years. Whilst he may sometimes be just a little more popular in far off places than here at home there is no doubting the single handed effort that Mr. Cameron has put in on behalf of UK industry and commerce to assist UK exportability. It is a job brilliantly done.

On this latest visit to India Mr. Cameron’s critics have been quick to suggest that he often comes home empty handed. In terms of immediate trade agreements signed that can be the the case but make no mistake about the foundations of long term benefit laid down on each visit made. Of course when leading specific trade missions abroad it isn’t normally the job of the PM to sell product – that’s most often down to the various companies that are following him around and doing their respective networking. Defence products are an exception to that particular rule but only because there can only ever one customer in defence – Governments!

Leaving aside the all important international diplomacy role that Mr. Cameron will for instance be working hard on today his job when abroad on trade related missions is to present his hosts with a full understanding of what Britain is today and what it stands for. Mr. Cameron, unlike his immediate predecessor, is absolutely brilliant at doing just that. Suffice to say that he is now very well respected in the many countries that he has so far visited. Unlike some of his European counterparts who are shall we say sometimes less than diplomatic in their timing we are very fortunate to have in Mr. Cameron such a good ambassador for Britain.

It was pleasing to note yesterday that in the wake of an untimely and unwelcome bribery probe affecting parent company Finmecccanica that David Cameron should stand very squarely behind the Italian company’s British subsidiary – the Yeovil based helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland. No one likes to have allegations of corruption around their neck but as Mr. Cameron rightly suggested, the current issue is one for the authorities of India and Italy to sort – it is not one to involve the parent company’s subsidiary in Britain despite the fact that the AW101 Helicopter order involved is actually being built here in Britain.

The Indian authorities have already begun a full inquiry into the allegations made against Finmeccanica and its officials. In the wake of the arrests and the allegations made Finmeccanica CEO Guiseppe Orsi chose to resign last week. He is to be commended for making that difficult decision whilst at the same time protesting the company’s innocence of all allegations made. I am delighted that David Cameron took the stand that he did on this particular issue yesterday. It is certainly right in my view that despite this being a mess for Finmeccanica and potentially damaging for the UK as well that the PM should stand very firmly behind AgustaWestland just as he should all other subsidiaries of Finmeccanica in Britain. We may sincerely hope that in the end these allegations of corruption and tax fraud made by the Indian authorities against Finmeccanica executives are found to be misplaced. Meanwhile we need to be frequently reminded – as the Prime Minister did in Mumbai yesterday – that Britain now has the most stringent anti-bribery and corruption laws in the western world. He didn’t say as much but he might have added that it high time that everyone else followed and that industries of all nations whether they be in defence or anything else should be able to play in international markets on a totally level playing field.

The UK trade delegation that Mr. Cameron is leading in India this week is said to be one if not the largest ever taken on an international mission. I have n

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