Look to the north of England, urges Cameron

British PM David Cameron and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong at a welcome ceremony at the Istana yesterday. Britain plans to develop the north of England, and wants Singapore and South-east Asia to invest.
British PM David Cameron and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong at a welcome ceremony at the Istana yesterday. Britain plans to develop the north of England, and wants Singapore and South-east Asia to invest.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Mr Javid says cyber technology is one area that has investment opportunities.
Mr Javid says cyber technology is one area that has investment opportunities.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

British Prime Minister David Cameron backs the strong business ties between Singapore and Bri-tain and yesterday urged investors here to widen their scope by considering the north of England.

Mr Cameron told a seminar: "We would encourage you to look at Britain in a new way.

"There are plenty of investment opportunities, of course, in London and the south-east, but look again at the north of England."

That includes Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, which are part of a plan - referred to as the Northern Powerhouse - to boost their economic status.

Mr Cameron, who was on his first official visit here, also noted opportunities in housing, retail and investment, adding: "We want to rebalance our country and we want Singaporean and other South-east Asian investors to help us to do it. That is what the Northern Powerhouse is all about."

RETHINK BRITAIN

We would encourage you to look at Britain in a new way. There are plenty of investment opportunities, of course, in London and the south-east, but look again at the north of England.

BRITISH PM DAVID CAMERON, urging investors here to widen their scope

STRONG TRADE RELATIONSHIP

He also said that as Singapore "continues to restructure itself to meet its future vision of a knowledge-driven economy, and to maintain its position as a regional centre", Britain is there to offer its expertise. Britain has experience in areas such as smart cities,

cyber, transport, advanced engineering and finance, and the north of England is "brimming" with infrastructure opportunities, for instance.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, said during the event at Unilever's one-north training facility that bilateral trade between Britain and Singapore had doubled to £7.5 billion (S$16 billion) from 2002 to 2012.

Britain is now Singapore's fourth-largest trading partner in Europe, while Singapore is Britain's largest trading partner in the Asean region.

DREAM TEAM: SINGAPORE AND BRITISH FIRMS

Singapore and British firms have long worked with each other.

Mr Iswaran noted: "Rolls Royce and Singapore companies have embarked on pre-competitive research in aviation technologies and solutions.

"This has enabled them to share the risks of developing new technology, and in turn strengthened the capabilities of the industry."

He added that Sembcorp's first overseas energy-from-waste facility is in Middlesbrough, Teesside, in the north-east of England, while City Developments' hotel arm has hotels in Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

Mr Iswaran also noted that South-east Asia offers tremendous opportunities for British firms, particularly in the light of the upcoming Asean Economic Community and the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

He added that the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) will further strengthen links between Singapore and Europe, and British firms here which have supply chains across Asean will benefit.

"Bradford Brewery and Leeds Brewery recently created a special 'Northern Powerhouse' beer. That brew, if exported to Singapore, will not only lift spirits but also enjoy zero tariffs under the EUSFTA," he said to laughter.

OPPORTUNITIES IN TECHNOLOGY

Mr Sajid Javid, Britain's Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, was confident that the working relationship between Britain and Singapore would grow.

He cited the financial technology innovation programme Startupbootcamp FinTech, which held an event at Gardens by the Bay yesterday.

Mr Javid, who was part of a business delegation accompanying Mr Cameron, noted that some of the start-ups featured involved Britons who were working with Singaporean partners.

It is important for "both sides to recognise the opportunities that already exist", he added.

Mr Cameron pointed to a £500,000 contract won by Fu-tureEverything, a firm from Manchester that deals with digital innovation and culture, to bring its long-running festival to Singapore later this year.

This is a partnership between FutureEverything and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, noted FutureEverything founder Drew Hemment.

Developing smart cities is ano-ther area to consider.

Mr Javid told The Straits Times that Britain can provide testbeds for products being created in Singapore for that purpose.

An agreement was also signed yesterday by Singapore's Cyber Security Agency and the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the United Kingdom Cabinet Office. They will team up to work on cyber security emergency responses and talent development, among other areas.

Mr Javid said: "Cyber threats and technology are something that the British government and companies invest a great deal in. It's a great issue, and opportunity for Singapore in terms of investment."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Look to the north of England, urges Cameron'. Print Edition | Subscribe