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Last updated : Nov 2009
Wales Business
Wales Business Overview - TravelPuppy.com
Wales Economy

The UK belongs to the G7 group of the world's leading industrial nations. Since the end of World War II, the UK has followed the trend away from industrial production towards service industries, which now account for about three-quarters of national income.

The transition has not been easy, and although the UK is not unique in this respect - many Western European economies have undergone a similar process during the past 20 years - a worse situation might have occurred without the revenues from North Sea oil. The traditionally strong agricultural sector has suffered a number of serious setbacks, largely the result of dubious practices which appear to have been rife throughout British agriculture. These undoubtedly contributed to two costly outbreaks of disease (BSE and foot-and-mouth) which have caused havoc in the industry and the loss of billions of pounds in export income.

Engineering (especially of military products), electronics, chemicals, construction and textiles are the main components of the industrial sector. Among service industries, tourism, retails, media, financial services, telecommunications and computer services are the most important and have grown rapidly, while heavy industries have suffered some decline.

The Conservative government of the 1980s and early 1990s was the first in Western Europe to dismantle the mixed economy of state and private owned industries that had become the standard model for members of the EU. A number of former state-owned industries including telecommunications, oil, gas and electricity, were sold to private shareholders, while the Government imposed stronger fiscal controls and enacted pro-business legislation. Controls on the movement of capital and on trade were removed. The model has now been adopted throughout both the industrialised and developing worlds; it has been maintained and then further extended by the Labour administration which took office in 1997.

Britain's economic performance in the past few years has been reasonable, although some cracks are beginning to show as the government has to plan for a much higher level of borrowing than anticipated. A slump in manufacturing industry has pushed unemployment to 1.5 million (5.2 per cent of the workforce). Both GDP growth (2.1 per cent) and inflation (1.8 per cent) are below the EU averages. The UK's foreign economic relations are now dominated by the EU (which accounts for 70 per cent of all UK trade), although there are important trade links with the USA, the Far East and with members of the Commonwealth. Europe nonetheless, dominates the economic agenda and the issues facing present and future governments is the extent to which they are willing to integrate into the European economy. The focus now is whether Britain should adopt the single European currency, the Euro. Although the economy has met the necessary criteria, the Government chose not to join when the currency was introduced in 1999. The Government has since remained on the fence; while many business and political leaders favour membership, there is huge opposition in the country at large. The conclusion of this debate may be decisive to Britain's economic future.

Business Etiquette

Businesspeople are generally expected to dress smartly (suits and ties). Appointments are made and the exchange of business cards is customary. A knowledge of English is needed.

Office hours
Monday-Friday 09:00/09:30-17:00/17:30 hrs.

Commercial Information

The following organisation can offer advice: The British Chambers of Commerce, 65 Petty France, London SW1H 9EU (telephone: (020) 7654 5800; email: info@britishchambers.org.uk).

Conferences/Conventions

The Wales Tourist Board/Bwrdd Croeso Cymru publishes brochures on conferences and incentives as well as a group directory. For more information contact the Business Travel Department, Wales Tourist Board, 10th Floor, Brunel House, 2 Fitzalan Road, Cardiff, CF2 0UY (telephone: (02920) 499 909; fax: (02920) 485 031).